African American Optimism On Economy

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[The Economy]

More than one in four (28%) African Americans now believe that they have achieved the American dream, up from 19% in January 2009, according to the 2010 MetLife Study of the American Dream.

This compares with 34% of all Americans who report they have achieved the dream, which is flat from 2009. Equally important, nearly nine in ten (86%) African Americans who report that they have not yet achieved the dream believe it remains within reach, compared with 70% of Americans overall. These results are reported nearly two years after the start of the economic downturn, a new study shows.

“Like their peers, most African Americans think that a full economic recovery is still three or more years away,” notes Beth Hirschhorn, senior vice president, Global Brand and Marketing Services, MetLife. “Despite this, they believe in the promise of the American dream. And they are more likely than in years past to view the dream as well within their reach.”

According to the Study, all Americans are taking significant steps to improve their financial situation, including taking on more responsibility at work, saving more and spending less and making plans to further cut spending. For example, 74% of all Americans and 75% of African Americans say they have spent less in the last year. In addition, for African Americans, more than four in ten (41%) report spending “a lot less” this year than last, compared with 34% of the population at large.

A significant number of Americans are helping their family members financially – even though they may also be struggling themselves. This is particularly true among African Americans, with 59% saying they have given money to a family member in the past year so they can pay their bills. This compares with 47% of Americans overall. In addition, 42% of African Americans have had a family member give them money in the past year, compared with only 35% of Americans overall.

While family members are helping each other make ends meet, African Americans still report a strong sense of self-reliance and confidence in their ability to manage risk. African Americans are less likely than their peers to be frustrated by the erosion of government and employer-sponsored safety nets. Nearly half of African Americans (48%) are “confident that [they] can rely on [themselves] to provide for [their] family even if [they] get less from the government,” compared with 40% of Americans overall. And, 55% of African Americans are confident that they can achieve financial security on their own, despite cutbacks in employer-sponsored health benefits and pension plans. Among the general population, the percentage falls to 44%.

Still, African Americans acknowledge that they have a way to go before they have an adequate personal safety net (defined as a “cash cushion,” with retirement savings as well as auto, health, home and life insurance). Fewer than one in three African Americans (26%) believe that they have already amassed an adequate personal safety net, compared with 31% of all Americans.

In addition to taking steps to improve their personal finances, African Americans also are taking better care of themselves. Half of African Americans (50%) say that they are eating better, 44% are exercising more and 28% are going to the doctor more regularly. Among the overall population, the percentages drop to 44% (eating better), 42% (exercising more) and 18% (visiting doctor regularly). On a related note, while nearly half of all Americans (45%) believe that healthcare reform will make the American dream more difficult to reach, only 15% of African Americans agree.

From April 14 - 21, 2010, Strategy First Partners in conjunction with Penn Schoen Berland conducted 2,201 online surveys in the United States among the general population as part of The 2010 MetLife Study of the American Dream.

Roughly half (52%) of the Study participants were Caucasian, 18% African American, 9% Hispanic and 19% Asian Americans (i.e., 199 Chinese Americans, 178 South Asian Indians and 42 from other Asian ethnicities).

Note that findings for the general population as a whole are weighted based on age, gender, race, income, education, and region to reflect the latest U.S. Census demographics.

To download The 2010 MetLife Study of the American Dream, visit

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