Six out of 10 American workers fear they will lose their jobs due to economic instability, a troubling finding in what is technically the third year of economic recovery, according to a new survey sponsored by the Washington Post and the Miller Center at the University of Virginia.
The angst is pervasive but most acute at the lower-income rungs — 73 percent of respondents were dissatisfied with the state of the nation's economy, though 61 percent were satisfied with their own economic situation.
But six in 10 fear losing their jobs, and one in three worry very much about job loss — figures that the Washington Post reports are record highs dating back to the 1970s.
"Job insecurities have always been higher among low-income Americans, but they typically rose and fell across all levels of the income ladder. Today, workers at the bottom have drifted away, occupying their own island of insecurity," the Post reported.
The survey had multiple questions dissecting how Americans feel about "the American dream," finding slippage on both home ownership and education as values.
The Washington Post reported that "the dream of a college degree has lost some of its appeal over three decades. Just over half now say going to college is very much part of the American Dream, down from 68 percent who said this in 1986. More than three-quarters say it has become more difficult to pay for college in the past few years, and over half believe colleges are not doing enough to prepare students to find jobs in today’s economy."
But the survey did find that a solid 65 percent still think "most people who want to get ahead can make it if they're willing to work hard." This is a question that historically has always separated U.S. survey respondents from peers in Europe, where opinions historically have tilted by similar ratios toward luck.
In one study by Adam Okulicz-Kazaryn at Harvard, Americans were six times more likely than Europeans to disagree that "Hard work doesn't generally bring success — it's more a matter of luck and connections" and instead agree that "In the long run, hard work usually brings a better life."