It’s about as hard for a 20-something worker to find a job today as it was in 1986. The economy is growing at a slightly slower pace, but not by much. And yet young workers today are significantly more pessimistic about the possibility of success in America than their counterparts were in 1986, according to a new Fusion 2016 Issues poll reported in conjunction with the Washington Post — a shift that appears to reflect lingering damage from the Great Recession and more than a decade of wage stagnation for typical workers.
That rise in pessimism among millennials is concentrated among white people. It is most pronounced among whites who did not earn a college degree.
The Fusion poll replicated the questions from a Roper/Wall Street Journal poll of young Americans that was conducted in 1986, the year Mister Mister topped the pop charts and Bill Buckner’s error cost the Boston Red Sox a World Series title. Both polls posed a series of questions about the American Dream: what it meant to individuals, whether it actually existed and, if it did, how hard it was to attain.
In the three decades between the surveys, pollsters found, share of young Americans overall who said the American Dream “is not really alive” grew sharply from 12 to 29 percent. Among white people, it nearly tripled from 10 percent to 29 percent. One in three white non-college graduates mow say it is not alive, compared to one-fifth of white college graduates; the increase from 1986 was larger for non-graduates than for graduates.