White youths are more pessimistic about their economic future than young minorities, though black and Hispanic youth are more likely to be in a worse financial position right now.
Just 12 percent of whites between the ages of 18 and 34 believe that they will be better off economically than their parents, in contrast to 31 percent of young blacks and 36 percent of young Hispanics, according to a study by Demos, a progressive advocacy organization, and Young Invincibles released on Wednesday. Fifty-five percent of young whites believe that they will be worse off than their parents, compared to 40 percent of young blacks and 36 percent of young Hispanics.
Whites may be more pessimistic about their future because they have more potential for downward mobility. The wealth gap between whites and minorities grew to its highest level in a quarter-century in 2009: whites have 20 times more wealth than blacks and 18 times more wealth than Hispanics.
Exacerbating that income gap is the high unemployment rates among minorities. At all ages and levels of educational attainment, ,ore whites have jobs than blacks, according to the Center for American Progress. Young blacks had an unemployment rate of 41.3 percent in the second quarter of 2011, compared to a 22.3 percent unemployment rate for young whites, CAP finds. The unemployment rate for blacks between the ages of 35 and 44 was similarly twice as high as the unemployment rate for whites of the same age.
But young people of all races may have reason to be pessimistic about their immediate future. Youth employment this past summer was at its lowest level since 1948, and the number of young job seekers around the world has expanded by 4.6 million since the start of the recession.
Young people who graduate into the job market during a recession are likely to suffer lower wages for at least a decade, compared to youths who graduate in a better economy, according to studies cited by the Wall Street Journal. The housing crash has pushed young people to grow increasingly pessimistic about their ability to increase their wealth through homeownership.
In spite of the pessimism of young whites, the economic downturn seems to have most hurt black and Hispanic youth, according to the Demos study. Significantly more young blacks and Hispanics have delayed decisions to live on their own, get married, and start a family, and more said it has become harder for them to pay their bills in the past four years.
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