Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Hard times, but a better attitude, among those on losing end of wealth gap

Robert Huffstutter/Flickr (Creative Commons)

A report that came out earlier this week from the Pew Research Center chronicled a dizzying drop in the household wealth of minorities between 2005 and 2009, with median Latino, Asian, and black household wealth declining by 66 percent, 54 percent and 53 percent, respectively. The median wealth of white U.S. households, by comparison, dropped only 16 percent.

But in spite of this tumble, caused in part by the housing crash and foreclosure crisis, minority groups surveyed still come across as more optimistic about the economy, wrote Paul Taylor, executive director of the Pew Research Center, in a Washington Post op-ed:

Indeed, Pew Research surveys show that during the same period — from 2005 to 2009 — minorities moved ahead of whites in their measured levels of satisfaction with the state of the national economy.

How can that be? Is it that minorities are better fortified, psychologically, to endure hard times? (Certainly they’ve had more experience.) Or could it be that because so much of their loss was of relatively recently acquired “paper wealth,” it stung less?

Perhaps there's more than money at stake. According to Pew surveys, Taylor writes, minorities first passed whites in their level of satisfaction with the national economy between 2008 and 2009, a period that coincides with the election of the nation's first non-white president. He continues:
Optimism among blacks and Hispanics about the nation’s economic future has fallen off since those politically heady days of 2008-09. But it remains above that of whites: In the latest Pew surveys, 40 percent of blacks say they expect the economy to improve in the next year, compared with 34 percent of Hispanics and 29 percent of whites. Pretty remarkable, given the disparate impact of the recession on these groups.

The moral of the story? When it comes to the way minorities perceive the economy these days, it may not be the economy, stupid.

Readers, any thoughts? As Taylor implies, is there a degree of strength that comes from living with less, here or in another country, or from an upbringing in an immigrant household?