Posts Tagged ‘The Economy’

Can We Get There from Here?

The have/have not-ification of American optimism

July 8, 2013 – Digit #7

Americans have always seemed to be hardwired for optimism:

…  Tomorrow will be better than today

…  Children will have a bigger, brighter life than their parents

…  “Pursuit of happiness” is our fundamental birthright as every grade-schooler knows

Then came the economic implosion – and with it the loss of articles of faith about getting ahead and predictable paths to the good life.

The field of play has changed:

…  93% of all income gains go to the top 1% of households

…  The richest 1% of Americans account for 24% of US income – up from 9% in 1975 (IRS, Census via Emanuel Saez, UC Berkeley)

And classic markers of mobility and access are re-forming along have/have not lines…

From “Class Struggle in the Sky” (NYT, July 7, 2013): “What’s happening in the clouds mirrors what’s happening on the ground. Statusization is ubiquitous no matter what your altitude…the 1% fly first class; the .1% fly Netjets; the .01% fly their own planes… moving up feels harder than it used to – or it does from where I sit (27F).”

So, who is more likely to “have” optimism for finding the path to their dreams now?
You guessed it: the affluent.

“There are more obstacles to achieving the American Dream than ever before.”

50% of total adults strongly agree. Only 42% of adults $150K+ do.

Digit 7 pic 2The vibrant ethnic remix in our culture also shows the pattern, with Asian Americans, with their high per capita income, showing the most optimism.

“No matter how poor you start out, in this country, everyone can work their way up the ladder.” [DYG SCAN 2013]

% who strongly agree:  
Total adults 44%
Adults $150K+ 53%
White/non-Hispanic 43%
African-American 39%
Hispanic-American 49%
Asian-American 52%

The good news? The narrowing of traditional paths to opportunity is giving rise to the creation of ingenious, new paths. Just one case in point: the power shift to the crowd-sourcing of everything. Think Kickstarter and the reinvention of raising investment money.

Talking with consumers around the country, we hear a fresh, determined optimism energized by creative solutions.  While uneven, there are signs of this emerging across all income and ethnic groups.  The American mantra now? Luck favors the prepared…and the creative.

 Business Implications: American optimism is going through its own version of creative destruction as consumers create new paths to opportunity. How can your brand be a creative solution… a partner in the new model of optimism?