Minorities Stay Positive In the Face of Economic Challenges

PHOTO: Blacks and Latinos think the economy will improve, despite being hit harder by the housing crisis and financial downturn.

Getty Images/Jamie Grill

Things are gonna get better. That's at least according to blacks and Latinos living in the U.S.

Although blacks and Latinos were hit hardest by the housing crisis and financial downturn of recent years, both groups say they are happy and the economy will improve.

A new study reveals that most black Americans (86 percent) are satisfied with their lives and hopeful for the future. According to the survey, conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, 21 percent of African Americans said they had already achieved the American Dream, with a nice home and economic security, and 60 percent said they had not yet but would at some point in their lives.

Latinos are similarly optimistic in the face of hard times. Sixty six percent of Latinos and 68 percent of blacks believe their economic circumstances will be better in 10 years, while only 48 percent of whites are as hopeful, according to a recent study by Pew.

When comparing themselves to their parents' generation, Latinos feel they are in a better place financially. Three-fourths of young Latinos described themselves as "better off" than their parent's generation in a Pew study. The new NPR study reveals that about 56 percent of all African Americans feel the same way about their financial well-being. About half of African American respondents ranked their financial situation positively (describing it as "good" or "excellent"), while the other half rated it negatively.

But it ain't all sunshine and rainbows. African Americans say that crime is the largest barrier facing their community, followed by the economy, according to the NPR report.

And huge inequalities persist between minorities and whites. White families had six times the wealth of black and Latino families ($632,000 versus $103,000) and earned double what black and Latino families did, on average, according to a survey by the Urban Institute from this year.

Signe-Mary McKernan, an economist for the Urban Institute, told the National Journal that the minority's optimism in the face of economic challenges may be because they are comparing their own wealth with those they know.

"Part of the answer is that most people don't realize how unequal wealth is," said McKernan. "We live in communities, and we tend to compare ourselves to our family and our neighbors first." Those around us tend to be of similar economic circumstances, she said.

Some pollsters and politicians argue the optimism is tied to overwhelming minority support of the current president.

Still, Matt Barreto of Latino Decisions told the National Journal that the positive outlook may be attributed to the fact that minorities had less to lose during the financial downturn and are likely to think of the prospect of their children's economic success than their own.

"When you have a group of 60-year-old African-Americans and Latinos sitting around a table, they aren't stressing out about their 401(k)s being cut in half because they don't have a 401(k)," he said. "They're looking at their kids."

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