Millennials In The US Are Less Optimistic About Their Futures Than In Other Countries, & Here's Why

Ad failed to load

Millennials often get criticized for being overly entitled snowflakes with no work ethic or resilience, but the reality is often that, well, it really isn't all that easy to be a young adult in the world right now. While at one time it was reasonable to expect that you'd grow up, find a steady job, and buy a house before the age of 30, that now seems like a laughably unrealistic goal. Young adults now have much more student debt, and much less actual wealth than previous generations, and it's made homeownership much less attainable. It's probably no surprise then that millennials in the United States are less optimistic about their futures than in other countries, according to data from the Pew Research Center — although, to be fair, we're not the only ones feeling this way.

In a recent report, the Pew Research Center looked at how people in nearly 40 different countries felt about how good their lives were today compared to how they would have been 50 years ago. In most instances, millennials in general seemed to have a more positive view of their lives today compared to baby boomers, but in relation to millennials in other countries? Americans aren't exactly celebrating.

Ad failed to load

The question was posed as part of the organization's Global Attitudes Survey, with the American portion of the survey taking place between June and July 2017. In general, the participants seemed to be split on how good things actually are these days: 37 percent of Americans said they felt life in the United States was better than it was 50 years ago "for people like [them]," while 41 percent thought it was worse. That's not entirely dissimilar to other comparable countries: in Australia, 33 percent felt life was worse, and in France, 46 percent of respondents felt like things had gone downhill. But in other countries, the outlook was much more positive. 65 percent of Germans felt like life today was better for them, 64 percent in the Netherlands and Sweden agreed, and in Canada, 55 percent of people said things had improved.

The general sense of pessimism (or at least ambivalence) towards Americans' wellbeing probably isn't all that shocking, given the hugely divisive political landscape, and the tax and health care policy changes that could have a big impact on the prosperity of lower- and middle-income individuals. But, for millennials, that general sense of unease may be especially concerning, given that we're also trying to establish ourselves financially, and many of us are also raising families (or at least thinking about doing so).

Ad failed to load

When the results of the study were broken down by age group, those in the 18-29 category mostly felt that compared to decades past, life in the United States had improved (51 percent agreed). That's a pretty big increase over the overall average, but compared to other countries, American millennials weren't as happy. In the UK, for example, 66 percent of millennials said life was better, and in Australia, 63 percent agreed. In Germany, 75 percent felt optimistic about modern life, while in Sweden a whopping 79 percent of millennials thought life had improved for the better for people like them.

The disparity likely comes down to economic stress. According to Marketwatch, a study released in August found that more than 25 percent of millennials say financial stress has affected their workplace performance (which is more than twice the rate of the general population), while another 25 percent said it made them feel physically ill. According to Bloomberg, student debt in the U.S. has doubled since 2009 to more than $1.4 trillion, but wages haven't increased enough to offset the impact. What's more is that the majority of 2009 college grads have either "defaulted, missed at least four months of required payments, or were facing higher loan balances five years later" — and each year, the amount of debt racked up by the graduating class outpaces the one before.

Ad failed to load

Not all millennials are feeling the pinch though — although even that might not be particularly good news. According to Quartz, a November 2017 analysis by Credit Suisse found that millennials are likely going to face the most pronounced income inequality of recent generations, with the majority set to struggle with greater debt and less overall wealth, while some are poised to "become spectacularly wealthy" thanks to extremely high-paying jobs (the number of millennial billionaires is actually on the rise), and significant inheritances from well-off family.

In other words? If you're already doing well for yourself, you'll probably end up doing even better. If not, well, that might not necessarily change a whole lot in the years to come.

Ad failed to load

As demoralizing as these reports might be, it's valuable at least to know that millennials can still take important steps to improve their financial well-being. According to Marketwatch, millennials spend more on average on things like groceries, gas, restaurants, coffee, and cellphone bills than older generations do, which suggests that attempting to cut back in those areas could be a good way to start easing some of the financial burden. And in addition to savvier budgeting, personal finance blogger Claudia Pennington told Marketwatch that taking steps to boost your income in any way possible will also have a big effect when it comes to saving for houses, or other important financial goals.

Millennials might get a bad rap, and our relative lack of financial prosperity can often seem like a result of laziness or immaturity. But for many of us, the reality of student debt, property prices, and precarious or low-paid work means that many of the goals or expectations that would have seemed totally reasonable for our parents and grandparents are no longer within reach. And judging from the data, that might not be something that will change anytime soon.

Ad failed to load

Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:

Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

15 Baby Names With Unique Nicknames, So Your Family Has Options

I love a good diminutive name, also known as a nickname. I believe I’m partial to them because of my own name, Abigale, but I go by Abi. And since they’re both uniquely spelled, everyone thinks my name is pronounced Ah-bee for some reason — but even …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

The Entire Family Can Enjoy These Movies & Shows Coming To Netflix In June

It's just one of those sad facts of life: every month, shows and movies vanish from Netflix, their varied excitements no longer at your fingertips. But luckily the streaming service is always prepared to fill that content void with lots of new things…
By Megan Walsh

The Reason Why Babies Smile At You Will Seriously Make You Smile

Whether you're currently the recipient of your own baby's sweet smiles or you just seem to be a magnet for baby grins in general, you might find yourself wondering why babies are always smiling at you. Sure, you could be a 'smile whisperer' but scien…
By Kate Miller

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills