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Financial Planning > College Planning

Poll: Earlier generations had it better

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Last year, nearly half of Americans answering an Allstate poll indicated they had more opportunities to get ahead than their parents did, though, oddly, three in four of the poll respondents indicated that getting ahead is harder than in the past. Now comes word, courtesy also of Allstate, that Americans overwhelmingly believe childhood and parenthood were better for earlier generations.

This finding, the result of the new Heartland Monitor Poll that Allstate that conducted in partnership with the National Journal, indicates that a majority (68 percent) of the 1,000 Americans surveyed (all ages 18 and older) believe that when today’s children are adults, they’ll have less financial security, with a poorer chance of holding a steady job and owning a home without too much debt.

More than six in ten respondents (62 percent) also believe their children will have fewer opportunities to achieve a comfortable retirement.

For the first time, the poll also surveyed high school teenagers ages 13-18, and found an optimistic view of the economy: More than half of the teens surveyed (54 percent) say they believe it’s better to be a teenager today than it was when their parents were growing up.

A plurality (45 percent) believe that when they are their parents’ age, they will have more opportunity to get ahead than the previous generation. Just 24 percent of teens say they will have less opportunity.

“The world looks to America as a beacon of hope to realize one’s dreams. While we see pessimism in this poll, the younger generation feels a sense of optimism about the future,” said Sanjay Gupta, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Allstate. “These findings reinforce a challenging backdrop, but the optimism of the younger generation gives us hope in the enduring American dream.”

This negative view of the future parallels a noticeable chilling of the national mood, with a high percentage (64 percent) of Americans believing that the country is on the wrong track.

Among the poll’s additional findings:

  • 68 percent of respondents think that today’s children will have less financial security;
  • 51 percent believe that “while the country should be supportive of children and young families, raising those children is the responsibility of the parents.” 
  • Fewer than half of parents with school-age children think it’s realistic that they will be able to pay for college education for themselves or their children.
  • Just 28 percent believe the economy will improve 12 months from now, the lowest we’ve measured from 44 percent last November to 34 percent in April and 37 percent in May/June.
  • 43 percent expect their financial situation to improve by this time next year, a slight decline from 47 percent in May/June but notably higher than the 36 percent measured in April 2013.


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