You’ve got to hand it to them: younger Millennials (age 18-24) are optimistic. Specifically, they’re optimistic about the economy and their own economic prospects in the long term, which may come as a surprise to those of us who are not of this generation. After all, it often seems like the chips are stacked against them: recent college graduates face a truly horrific job market, while the price of undergraduate education is an increasingly hefty chunk of student debt. According to the 2012 Millennial Values Survey, nearly half (48%) of younger Millennials report that they live with their parents, including 52% of Millennials with a high school education, 44% of Millennials who have some college education, and 24% of Millennials who have a bachelor’s degree.
And yet, they are more optimistic than the general public about whether the economy will turn around. Nearly 4-in-10 (38%) of younger Millennials say that, over the next two years, the economy will get better, while less than 3-in-10 (27%) predict that it will get worse, and 35% believe it will stay about the same. By contrast, fewer than 3-in-10 (27%) of the general public say that the economy will improve over the next two years, while 36% say it will get worse, and 32% predict that it will stay about the same.
Millennials are also twice as likely to believe that, in their lifetime, they will be better off – as opposed to worse off – than their parents financially (42% to 18% respectively). Around 4-in-10 (38%) say they will remain at about the same level.
This isn’t to say that Millennials do not express some trepidation about their future. Two-thirds of Millennials report that they are very (23%) or somewhat (43%) worried about finding a rewarding or satisfying career. A plurality (45%) of Millennials believe that the American Dream once held true, but not anymore, while 4-in-10 (40%) agree that it still holds true today. One-in-ten (10%) say that the American Dream never held true.
Add to this some rather staggering levels of student debt: while nearly 3-in-10 (29%) Millennials who have graduated from college report that they did not borrow money to attend college, an equal number (28%) say that they borrowed less than $20,000, while nearly one-quarter (24%) say they borrowed between $20,000 and $50,000. Fourteen percent say they borrowed more than $50,000.
Considering that only 11% of college-age Millennials have received their bachelor’s degree, which means that many are still in school, these attitudes could well change when they begin to confront the uncomfortable realities of the workforce. But for now, it doesn’t seem like an extended stay with mom and dad has done much dampen younger Millennials’ hopefulness about their future.