America’s Youth in Pursuit of the American Dream

US Youth American Dream

Young people in the US, undeterred by the nation’s economic doom and gloom, still strive for the great American Dream, a new report by Credit Suisse has found.   Interestingly, American youth’s ambitions of wealth and success are in direct contrast to their counterparts in Switzerland, and to a lesser extent Brazil.


Political scientist, Lukas Golder, a director at gfs.bern, the research firm which conducted the survey for Credit Suisse, says the report found young Brazilians believe that enjoying life and “living the dream with others” is as important as making money. By comparison the Swiss are more concrete thinkers who don’t waste time dreaming. Instead they roll up their sleeves and work hard to make their goals a reality.


The findings of Credit Suisse’s third annual Youth Barometer provide an insight into how young people from the US, Brazil and Switzerland, view their future and what values are important to them.


Overall, it depicts a hopeful and ambitious group. Whether in Bern, Sao Paulo or Chicago, the Credit Suisse report shows that today’s youth share common aspirations. They want to own a house or apartment, and yearn for a fulfilling job that allows them to enjoy a good work-life balance.


Golder says this striking insight, shared by all three countries, contradicts media commentators who have labeled “millennials” as a lost generation, even  “a generation without qualities,” which has been unable to fully leverage the tech revolution of the past decade to its advantage.


Instead, the Credit Suisse survey shows a generation that is driven and full of ambition. Despite facing the biggest economic crisis in generations, young people across the board appear optimistic and resilient. Brazilians surveyed were the most positive about their future (73%), followed by 66% of Swiss and 56% of Americans.


“Young people in the US still pursue the American dream of rising from office drone to millionaire, but the crisis has shaken their confidence and frustrates them at times,” says Golder.


However, there were still some clear disparities between the three nations – the most obvious related to personal finances, according to the survey.  America’s young people are the deepest in debt, owing money on personal loans, mortgages, credit cards and to cell phone providers.


“The Swiss respondents incur almost no debt, and those they do have are to their family and friends,” says Golder.


“By contrast, living on credit is common for those surveyed in the US and, to a slightly lesser extent, Brazil.”


Of course, our young people do have fears. In the US, they are fearful of terrorism and youth unemployment. Rising fuel prices and health issues also concern them.


In Switzerland, they worry about how asylum seekers and refugees should be treated, as well as the future of old-age pensioners; in Brazil, youth unemployment and corruption rank as the biggest concerns.


“Young people in the US … are much more attuned to the economic downturn. They want to safeguard their property and their national invulnerability, and put greater emphasis on security.”


Americans and Brazilians cast a severe judgment on their respective governments. Almost all of those surveyed in the US – 82% – believe their political system needs a complete overhaul, and half think the Government fails in crucial decisions.


Brazilians have little faith in their government either and see corruption as the most pressing problem, while Switzerland’s politicians get a good grade, thanks to the nation’s healthy economic position.


The Youth Barometer also debunked some widely held conceptions, especially when it comes to how young people interact with social media platforms.


Young people believe that social media can be a catalyst for rich and fruitful interactions that can help them make new friends, gather and share information. In Switzerland, 73% of the polled youth use SMS/texting to connect with friends and family, but only 23% stay connected on Web 2.0 platforms like Facebook and Twitter. In the US and Brazil, 45% and 41%, respectively, of polled youth prefer Twitter and Facebook to connect with their respective networks.


Overall, despite the financial challenges of the last few years, “Young people from all three countries have an overwhelmingly positive view of their own future,” says Golder.


Photo:  Flickr: babasteve