Consumers are worried about a potential decline in the U.S. economy and living standards, but The Wall Street Journal’s monthly survey of business revealed that 80% of academic and financial economists say the U.S. living standards today are higher than during the 1990s or earlier. Wall Street Journal staffer Josh Zumbrun dives into the survey results, and the differing opinions between economists and today's voters, who believe the 1960s were America's best economic time. (Subscription required.)
In a recent Pew Research Center survey, only 34% of voters said life today is better than in the 1960s. However, 88% of economists said the U.S. is better today than in 1960 and 87% see today as better than 1980.
Why do so many voters put such little stock in the past 50 years? Economists point to a few culprits. First, wages or available jobs have deteriorated for some demographic groups. Second, overall incomes declined during the two most recent recessions, but not enough to set people back to a 1960s standard of living. Fourth, many voters could be thinking primarily about broader social changes that have occurred in the past 50 years, rather than directly considering whether they would want a 1960s standard of living today.
The panel of economists is not very optimistic about the year ahead. On average, they see a 20% chance that the U.S. will fall into recession in the next year—about double the risk of last year. They believe the pace of job growth is likely to slow, and worry about the risk of economic fallout in the U.S. if China’s economy continues to deteriorate.