Filed Under:Markets, Gen X Y

Allstate poll: upward mobility remains possible, but harder, for Americans

Photo credit: Stuart Miles
Photo credit: Stuart Miles

Nearly half of Americans say they have more opportunity to get ahead than their parents did, and nearly three quarters say they expect to reach financial security and comfort in their lifetimes, according to a new report.

The Allstate Corporation, Northfield Township, Ill. (NYSE: ALL), unveiled this finding in the 14th quarterly Allstate-National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll of 1,250 adults ages 18 and older. The survey explores perceptions of upward mobility among Americans and sheds new light on the challenges and obstacles they face in their continued efforts to get ahead.

Three in four Americans say getting ahead is harder than in the past, but an equal proportion have been able get ahead in their lifetime, the report states.

Asked what plays the greatest role in determining whether they will succeed, about two-thirds of the respondents identify either their own skills and hard work or their educational background; less than one in five say the key factor is the economy's state. Only about one in 20 assign the most responsibility to government policies or their ethnic and racial background.

But while 76% of Americans say they've been able to get ahead financially over the course of their lives so far, nearly as many (75%) believe it is harder to do so today than in previous generations, the report states. Almost half (48%) say they have more opportunities than their parents did at the same age, but a greater number combined say they either have the same opportunities (28%) or fewer (23%).

Minorities (at 61%) are more likely than whites (at 44%) to say they have more opportunities than their parents did.

And slightly more than half of Americans (51%) say the economic downturn has redefined what it means to "get ahead," defining success today as holding a job, paying bills, avoiding debt, and saving for the future, rather than bigger success factors, like steady increases in income, buying a home, or saving and investing more each year.

Among the report’s additional findings:

● 86% agree that America is the "land of opportunity," and 61% say they are living the American Dream.

● Perceptions of "living the American Dream" increases with each higher income bracket, from 39% of those in households earning under $30k to 81% of those in $100k+ households.

● 48% of Americans say they have more opportunities to get ahead than their parents did, while 23% say they have fewer opportunities and 28% believe they have about the same opportunities.

● Consistent with previous Heartland Monitor Polls, African-Americans (75%) are the most likely to believe they have more opportunity than their parents had.

● The biggest reason given by respondents when asked why they have had more opportunities than their parents is an improvement in education. One in three respondents (33%) credit better schools, colleges and universities while others cite advances in technology and new opportunities in a changing economy.

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