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New survey finds racial and ethnic divide in young people's views on their own economic security

October 05, 2016

A new GenForward survey released today reveals how young people feel about a wide range of key economic issues and provides comprehensive data on young people's perceptions of their economic future. The GenForward September 2016 survey is from the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago with The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The survey finds young African Americans and Latino/as are the most economically vulnerable and that young people have differing experiences with racial discrimination in the workplace.

"These data indicate that young adults face a number of unique economic challenges and that young adults of color often face what we call an economic opportunity gap," said Cathy Cohen, a professor of political science and founder of the Black Youth Project and GenForward survey at the University of Chicago. "However, young people--particularly young adults of color--also exhibit a surprising amount of optimism about their economic future."

Three issues are generally at the top of young adults' list of economic concerns across all racial and ethnic groups: reducing student debt, increasing wages, and reducing income inequality. Forty-one percent of African Americans, 35 percent of Asian Americans, 32 percent of Latino/as, and 30 percent of whites identify reducing student debt as one of the most important economic issues for the next president.

The latest GenForward survey also found that Hillary Clinton continues to receive more support from young people of color than Donald Trump, while whites are split between the candidates. Few young people plan to vote for third-party candidates, with Gary Johnson receiving support from 15 percent of whites, 8 percent of Latino/as, 6 percent of Asian Americans, and 4 percent of African Americans, while Jill Stein received less than 5 percent support from all racial and ethnic groups.

Some of the key findings from the nationally representative survey of young people age 18-30:

  • Young people of all races and ethnicities say reducing student debt, increasing wages, and reducing income inequality are the key economic issues for the next president to address.

  • Young people of color, especially African Americans, report experiencing more work-related discrimination than whites and believe their race makes it more difficult for them to succeed economically.

  • Young women across racial and ethnic groups are more likely than men to have experienced economic discrimination. African American men also report high rates of gender discrimination.

  • Few young people have a positive view of their household's financial situation, and young African Americans and Latino/as are the most economically vulnerable.

  • Although most young people have negative perceptions of the economy, many are very optimistic about their economic futures. Among young people, whites tend to be less positive about their future than people of color.

  • Young people of color continue to favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump for president, while whites remain split between the candidates. Third-party candidates have limited appeal to young people, especially young adults of color.

"While we continue to see splits in how young whites, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Latino/as view critical issues, there are significant exceptions," said Trevor Tompson, director of The AP-NORC Center. "Although many young people of all races and ethnicities do not have a very positive view of the current economy, most are optimistic about their personal future and believe they will do better than their parents."
About the Survey

Data come from GenForward, a survey of the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago with The AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, with a nationally representative sample of 1,851 adults age 18-30 years old. Interviews were completed online and using landlines and cell phones from September 1-14, 2016. Results have a margin of sampling error of +/- 3.8 percentage points. More information about the survey and reports can be found at

The proper description of the survey's authorship is as follows: GenForward is a survey of the Black Youth Project at the University of Chicago with The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

About the Black Youth Project

The Black Youth Project (BYP) began as a national survey research project led by Dr. Cathy Cohen in 2005, and has since grown into an organization committed to: 1) producing research about the ideas, attitudes, decision-making, and lived experiences of youth and young adults, especially from communities of color, 2) amplifying the perspectives of young people daily without censorship or control via the BYP website, and 3) providing resources to encourage civic engagement and media literacy among youth and young adults.

BYP has both developed and fielded new national surveys that provide insight into the concerns of young Americans, detailing their policy preferences, participatory practices, and views about their communities and the country. Recent media citations include MSNBC, Politico, CNN, National Public Radio, The New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, The Associated Press, and Reuters.

About The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research

The AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research taps into the power of social science research and the highest-quality journalism to bring key information to people across the nation and throughout the world.

The Associated Press (AP) is the essential global news network, delivering fast, unbiased news from every corner of the world to all media platforms and formats. Founded in 1846, AP today is the most trusted source of independent news and information. On any given day, more than half the world's population sees news from AP.

NORC at the University of Chicago is an independent research institution that delivers reliable data and rigorous analysis to guide critical programmatic, business, and policy decisions. Since 1941, NORC has conducted groundbreaking studies, created and applied innovative methods and tools, and advanced principles of scientific integrity and collaboration. Today, government, corporate, and nonprofit clients around the world partner with NORC to transform increasingly complex information into useful knowledge.

The two organizations have established The AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research to conduct, analyze, and distribute social science research in the public interest on newsworthy topics, and to use the power of journalism to tell the stories that research reveals.

NORC at the University of Chicago

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