Young adults are optimistic.

Consumer sentiment and spending among people in their 20s and 30s have continued to gain traction, even as economic headwinds throw a wet blanket on the optimism of older consumer households, tamping down both their spending and their plans.

Wall Street Journal staffer Ben Leubsdorf writes:

Going back decades, consumer surveys have shown Americans in their 20s and 30s more optimistic about the economy compared with their parents and grandparents. But the generation gap has been unusually wide in recent years in gauges from the Conference Board and University of Michigan. Confidence among consumers under age 35 is back to prerecession levels, while sentiment among people 55 and older remains far lower, deteriorating for more than a year.

Leubsdorf explains that that's not all good news, since young adult households tend to earn and spend less than older adults, noting that "the median net worth for families under 35 was a mere 6% of the median net worth for 55- to 64-year-olds."

Still, the chemistry of optimism, a sense of purpose as they arrive at more highly regarded positions in their careers (than when they started) and in their communities, and a gradually freer fiscal rein as they shed debt and realize wage gains.

An observation Leubsdorf makes--"the link between consumer sentiment and actual spending has been fuzzy at times"--exposes a critical point as housing's players ask young consumers the all-important question that informs location, cost, design, performance, aesthetics, and resale value: "How do you want to live in your home?"

How you ask that question, and what you infer from the answers connects with that question of the direct ties (or not) between sentiment and spending.

When you ask that question, the intent is to understand the need your home, your community, your project meets. Consumer research--and increasingly, insight into housing choice preferences, values, attitudes, and behaviors--describes important differences between "stated and revealed" preferences, values, etc.

Each dollop of data--whether it's answers to survey questions or consumer transaction behavior patters--has drawbacks and each has advantages.

The important thing to do is to be genuinely curious and ask the question, "How do you want to live in your home?"

And when you're asking a young adult, expect responses that reflect an optimistic outlook on what's ahead for the individual, the community, and the broader national and international economy.