11/14/2011 10:25 pm ET | Updated Jan 11, 2012

The Gallup-HOPE Index and How America Wins the Coming Global Jobs War

I believe this article articulates the single best weapon (our 50 million youth, grades 5th-12th) to address what many have called America's coming China challenge, but really, this article is not about America's future China challenge. This is about us, and what we need to do to sustain, extend, and grow our own organic success well into the future.

This is about how we manufacturer more of that amazing American "special sauce," that has made people all around the world want to come to this incredible place for more than 100 years.

It's also about our confidence, in ourselves.

America's GDP is still approximately $15 trillion today. That means that even with Chinas GDP at $5.8 trillion, and adding the two next largest economies (Japan at $5.2 trillion and Germany at $3.28 trillion) together, you still have room within the U.S. economy to add more. We are still the biggest economy in the world by a long-shot, so we must remember that we still have a lot of what the world needs to succeed. Our problem is our confidence in ourselves.

And even with China's recent runaway success, there are serious internal social, economic and what I call "value" issues -- inside the borders of China -- that they will have to deal with before they truly emerge as a true global leader on the world stage. This will take a minute to sort out.

America's problem is also her opportunity - it is within you and me.

"The Gallup-HOPE Index measures student's financial literacy and attitudes toward entrepreneurship and innovation, which in turn predict future economic energy in your city. Cities need results from this survey from each school, but the most telling behavioral economic metric to watch is the direction and speed - the trends - of these markers. So, if the image of free enterprise and entrepreneurship is going up among your youth, you will experience job creation. If it is trending down, may God be with you." Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO, Gallup

The world is now in the midst of an economic war, and you and I are the soldiers taking the field to win it. The prize for winning, to quote my friend and partner in the Gallup-HOPE Index, Mr. Jim Clifton is "an almighty good job." Jim continues, "this is a war for the future of global good jobs (read Jim Clifton's recent book THE COMING JOBS WAR)."

Jim Clifton and I now believe that our 50 million youth, grades 5th through 12th, represent the single best weapon to compete with China, and the world.
They are also our single best shot at rallying our nation's confidence here at home, and to quickly get America's mojo back around the world.

Here is a quick tour of America and the world by the numbers:

• Global GDP is a little more than $60 trillion, and the U.S. is approximately 25% of global GDP.
• By 2040, Gallup estimates that global GDP will be upwards of $200 trillion. What comes next is an all out economic war for who gets the remaining $140 trillion in untapped global GDP growth. America should claim its fair share.
• There are 300 million Americans in the U.S., and about 150 million of them want what Gallup calls "a good job" (30 plus hours a week of reliable employment, access to health insurance and other reasonable work benefits, etc).
• Of the 150 million, about 15 million are flat out of work. Another 15 million or so are under-employed, or a total of 30 million of our "army" who are not suited up and on the playing field, scoring points for our team.
• Of this 30 million, about 18 million have lost hope of finding a "good job." This is not good.

The politicians understandably obsess on the 150 million Americans who want a job NOW. These are their "voting constituency," so to speak. But amongst the 300 million Americans exist a secret, almost completely untapped weapon for the new global war for good jobs. They are our 50 million youth, in 5th through 12th grade.

Gallup and Operation HOPE partnered together recently to do something never done before in America - poll America's youth and actually ask our future job creators, job takers, tax payers, Social Security subsidizers, entrepreneurs, small business owners and future self-employment projects, what they feel about their own financial literacy and economic energy.

Consisting of 34 magical questions, which we refer to as the Q34, the Gallup-HOPE Index will quickly become the national authority on our youth's level of financial literacy and economic energy going forward.

The recently released Gallup-HOPE Index data (2% margin of error) told us the following, amongst other things:

• 91% of all youth said they were not afraid to take risks, even if they might fail.
• 85% of all youth said they never give up.
• 77% of all youth said they wanted to be their own boss.
• 54% of all youth said they have a bank or credit union account with money in it.
• 51% of all youth said that their school had a course that taught them about money or banking.
• 45% of all youth said they wanted to start their own business (slight disconnect between the youth who said they wanted to be their own boss and this group. It could be presumed that they didn't see the obvious connection here).
• 42% of all youth said they will invent something that will change the world.
• 37% of all youth said that their school had a course on how to start a business.
• 33% of all youth said they have a parent or guardian at home that has ever started a business.
• 5% of all youth said they had a business mentor or were interning with a business now.
• 4% of all youth said they own their own business now.

You see the same trend lines here that I see? This is both inspiring, and distressing in the same breath.

Our youth literally are our future, and in 10 years they will be in significant positions - as workers, as borrowers for banks and credit unions, as new parents, and hopefully as entrepreneurs - but we are not preparing them for this future in what many would call a "capitalist democracy."

I have said countless times, unless you understand the global language of money today (financial literacy, or what we at Operation HOPE now call financial dignity), and unless you have a bank account or credit union account, you are an economic slave. And this is not even principally about race anymore, it is about class. In other words, whether you are black, white, brown or yellow today - everyone just wants some more green.

In order for America's GDP to grow, according to our partner Gallup, America needs about 1 million new business start-ups every year (which is where most of the jobs come from). The problem is, we only have about 400,000 new business start ups a year now. Our youth - this 50 million youth economic energy club - is about the best bet we can make to change that for the future.

Do your part by signing up to become a HOPE Corps volunteer at Operation HOPE, or volunteer for Junior Achievement, or the National Institute for Teaching Entrepreneurship, or Boys & Girls Clubs where they partner with Charles Schwab Foundation to teach financial literacy, or JumpStart Coalition, or 100 Black Men of America, or the National Urban League, or countless other organizations, on the ground in your community, making a difference and trying to move these numbers.

This war is all local, and quoting Jim Clifton, "this war is for all the marbles."

John Hope Bryant is a thought leader, founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), the only African-American bestselling business author in America, and a Member of the U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability for President Barack Obama. Mr. Bryant is a co-founder of Global Dignity with HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway and Professor Pekka Himanen of Finland. Global Dignity is affiliated with the Forum of Young Global Leaders and the World Economic Forum.