As we close out 2021, and the nearly second full year of the pandemic, it becomes easy to notice the way things have changed over the past months. As society has adjusted to new ways of living and interacting with each other, such as telemedicine’s rise and then plateau, air travel that may never be the same, and the fact that remote work is more or less here to stay.

It’s incalculable to note all the ways society has and will continue to change in the face of the pandemic pressures. But at the very least, for the first time since October, a majority of people don’t think the economy will get worse in the coming months. 

Interestingly, however, when looking at the relative impact of the economy on personal wealth over a lifetime, we see an unexpected correlation. 

Both those who are more bullish and more bearish on the economy expect to eventually become wealthier than their parents, while those in between are more pessimistic. While by no means a standard scientific evaluation of the U.S. economy, it is fascinating to see that nearly half (44%) of the Gen Pop at large believes they will be wealthier than their parents by the end of their working years. 

And breaking down this sentiment across demographic lines yields mostly unsurprising results.

Younger people are much more pessimistic than their older counterparts, as are those with lower incomes and lower educations. Meanwhile, conservatives far outweigh liberals in believing they will be wealthier than their parents, which perhaps runs in line with general economic values among political groups. 

Some of this data, of course, may be self-fulfilling (the older may already be wealthier than their parents, as are higher income households, higher education is often perceived to be linked with higher income, etc.), but it may also demonstrate generational perceptions around the economy.

For instance, 44% of the general population states that it was easier to achieve more wealth than your parents in prior generations. 

But when crossing this data by age, we see some interesting results. 

Those aged 25-54 are quite a bit more likely to believe they have it more difficult than their parents, while those both older and younger feel the opposite. However, of note is Gen Z, which also demonstrates the highest levels of insecurity. Perhaps it is too soon to know for many of them, still coming into adulthood. 

More interestingly, however, is how this economic sentiment breaks down among income and education. 

Nearly every income grouping believes the economy worked more in favor of their parents, and at nearly the same proportions. Meanwhile, those with a high school degree have the highest levels of believing they have it easier, counter to every other education grouping. 

In the end, there is no clear leading factor that people believe will ultimately make them wealthier than their parents, though investing and getting a good job stand out among other options. 

Across age, this trend largely holds the same, although faith in cryptocurrency is higher among younger people, running inversely against faith in the stock market, which runs higher with older people.

Ultimately, every generation is defined by the large economic events that impact them. And as the pandemic continues to shift economic perceptions into the foreseeable future, CivicScience will continue to keep its thumb on the pulse of consumer sentiment as it shifts in tandem.