Slackers. Cynics. Latchkey kids. Generation X has faced its share of negative media perceptions over the decades, so perhaps it’s not surprising that members of this demographic cohort have a less-than-rosy outlook when it comes to their own earning potential.
In a new Harris Poll conducted exclusively for Fast Company, people aged 45 to 54 were the least likely to see wealth as an achievable goal in the United States, with only 47% saying they agree that it’s possible to become wealthy or a part of the elite class. That’s compared to 60% of 18- to 34-year-olds and 56% of 35- to 44-year-olds. Baby boomers were also more likely to agree that wealth is achievable: 52% of 55- to 64-year-olds and 57% of people over 65 said so.
Gen X is typically defined as being born between 1965 and 1980, meaning older members of the generation are now in their fifties and possibly coming to terms with what they see as limited earning prospects as they inch closer to retirement. Overall, younger people in the survey—and younger men, in particular—were far more likely to see wealth as achievable, with 69% of men under 35 and 51% of women under 35 believing it is.
The survey of 1,008 U.S. adults was conducted in July and asked the following question:
“In the United States, becoming a member of the wealthy/elite class is an achievable goal.”
- 18-34: 60% agree / 18% strongly agree
- 35-44: 56% agree / 17% strongly agree
- 45-54: 47% agree / 7% strongly agree
- 55-64: 52% agree / 10% strongly agree
- Over 65: 57% agree / 15% strongly agree
Although Gen Xers brought down the average, it’s worth noting that Americans are still generally optimistic about the possibility of getting rich, with 55% seeing it as an achievable goal.
At the same time, and rather contradictorily, more than half of respondents (54%) also said members of their generation would be worse off than their parents. In that regard, it was older millennials and younger Gen Xers who showed the most pessimism, with 65% of 35- to 44-year-olds expecting to be worse off than their parents, the highest of any age group.