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U.S. Poor Express Strong Values, Not Self-Pity

Authors: Andrew Kohut, Director, Pew Global Attitudes Project, and Michael Dimock, Director, Pew Research Center for the People and the Press
May 9, 2013
Bloomberg.com

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The booming stock market is of little solace to middle-class Americans, who continue to express concern about their financial security and the overall condition of the U.S. economy. The poor are even more bearish, surveys show.

In fact, after falling significantly behind in the Great Recession, less-affluent Americans have continued to lose ground in what has technically been the economic recovery.

In the years since the recession officially ended in June 2009, the mean net worth of households in the upper 7 percent of the wealth distribution rose by an estimated 28 percent, while the mean net worth of households in the lower 93 percent dropped by 4 percent, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of recently released Census Bureau data.

Yet even in the depths of the recession and the difficult recovery, middle-class and lower-income Americans remained optimistic about the future of the country and their own long-term personal prospects. They acknowledged the truth of rising inequality and expressed frustration over what they saw as a political and economic system that gave unfair advantages to those who were already ahead. There was no sign, however, that class resentments were increasing.

In a newly released report for the Council on Foreign Relations' Renewing America series, we found little indication that beliefs in the efficacy of hard work, individualism and potential for personal progress have eroded in response to the struggling recovery of the past four years.

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