(TND) — Americans aren't feeling bullish about their current financial situations or their children's future.
A new Wall Street Journal-NORC Poll shows 80% feel the economy is "poor" or "not so good."
And 78% say their financial situation has gotten worse or stayed the same over the last few years.
Seventy-eight percent also say they aren’t confident their children’s lives will be better than their own.
An official with NORC at the University of Chicago noted "an intractable level of pessimism" among Americans, according to a WSJ article.
Colorado State University economist Stephan Weiler said inequality and inflation are the driving forces behind the negative sentiment shown in this survey.
“People staring down the gun barrel of a recession tend to feel pretty poorly,” he said.
The survey was conducted in early March, mostly before the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank.
The jitteriness probably only increased” after that, Weiler said.
There are still a lot of positives in the economy, he said.
The country has been averaging between 300,000 and 350,000 net new jobs every month over the last year. Wages are rising, although not as fast as inflation. The economy, despite taking a pounding, grew in the fourth quarter.
The economy overall has looked pretty resilient, Weiler said.
But everything is more expensive, from eggs at the grocery store to a car loan. And that’s likely felt more strongly by folks.
“Inflation hits you every single day,” he said.
The survey showed that 95% see inflation as a concern.
And 47% think the economy will get worse, with another 38% saying it’ll stay the same.
The largest share of survey respondents is more or less satisfied with their present financial situation, 46%, but that’s down from 51% last spring. Another 38% aren’t satisfied at all.
Only 28% think they have a good chance of improving their standard of living.
Weiler said people feel stuck, saying these responses are partially a product of economic inequality that has been rising since the 1980s.
What appears to be good news – 68% said they are at least pretty happy – includes a dark cloud, too. The 12% who said they are “very happy” is the lowest response that question has gotten since NORC began asking in 1972.
And the 78% saying they aren’t confident their children’s lives will be better than their own is the highest since NORC started gauging that in 1990.
No matter how much they increase your pay, everything else is going up," Kristy Morrow, a Texas woman who works as a coordinator for a hospital, told the WSJ. "I do fear that for the kids."
And people aren’t seeing a college education as the ticket to improve their lives the way they have in the past.
Over half now say a four-year college degree isn’t worth the cost because of the student debt and concerns over graduating without specific job skills.
The WSJ said that marked a reversal from the last time the question was asked in 2017 when the largest share of people saw a college education as a good investment.
"It still is," Weiler said.
He said statistics show that a person with a bachelor’s degree will earn about $1 million more over their lifetime than someone without a degree. And college-educated people have lower unemployment, he said.
Weiler said he was surprised to see signs of anxiety about the jobs market in the survey, where just over half said it would be difficult to find a comparable job in terms of pay and benefits.
Job openings have declined somewhat, but there are still 1.9 open jobs per unemployed person.
Still, it’s clear people are now more hesitant about giving up their job in search of greener pastures.
“Who cares about 300,000 net new jobs when you know you don't like your old one but are afraid to quit, because you may not find a new one,” Weiler said.