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For the First Time Ever, Most Americans Believe the Younger Generation Will Not Live Better Lives Than Their Parents

future, outlook, quality of life

Most Americans feel the future isn't so bright.

As our Meredith noted this weekend, teen joblessness will be at an all-time high this summer. As a result, some urban communities could see a rise in street violence. Maybe that’s why, the New York Times postulates, more Americans than ever believe that today’s youth will not have a better quality of life than their parents.

Since 1983, pollsters have been asking US citizens the following question: “In America, each generation has tried to have a better life than their parents, with a better living standard, better homes, a better education, and so on. How likely do you think it is that today’s youth will have a better life than their parents — very likely, somewhat likely, somewhat unlikely, or very unlikely?”

For the first time on record, the vast majority of Americans polled by Gallup in April answered somewhat or very unlikely.

I wonder if news of the death of Osama bin Laden would make a difference in the poll’s outcome, especially considering that according to the Times, “The measure peaked in December 2001 at 71 percent, shortly after the terrorist attacks.”  I expect that’s because people felt so devastated after the 9/11 attacks that they thought things could only go up from there.  (Like Danielle, I was in New York on 9/11, and I’m not sure how I feel about Osama’s death.  One thing’s for sure: it was considerate of the US Navy to wait to kill him until after William and Kate were on honeymoon.)  I imagine that most people would view the death of bin Laden as a high point, reflected in the recent upshot of President Obama’s approval rating.

Of course, anyone’s answer to this question depends largely on their definition of “better,” and their willingness to think outside of the box in terms of that.  I think our children may well end up living better lives than we do if we – and as they get older, they – start to invest in the environment by developing green technologies, reducing waste, inventing new ways to recycle, etc.  The future could be very bright if we rely on bright and ethical innovations.

How do you feel?  Do you think our children will lead better lives than we do?

Photo via Flickr

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