Heartland Monitor Poll

The American Dream — Under Threat

The new Heartland Monitor Poll shows a widespread belief that today’s children won’t have the same opportunities as their parents.

Children in a line holding the American flag. 
National Journal
Ronald Brownstein
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Ronald Brownstein
Sept. 19, 2013, 4:15 p.m.

It’s a tough time to be a kid in Amer­ica. Or a par­ent.

In the latest All­state/Na­tion­al Journ­al Heart­land Mon­it­or Poll, an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of Amer­ic­an adults say it was bet­ter to be either a child or a par­ent when they were young rather than now. Over two-thirds be­lieve that when today’s kids grow up, they will en­joy less fin­an­cial se­cur­ity than adults today. And an­oth­er two-thirds say today’s chil­dren face more chal­lenges than op­por­tun­it­ies. On all of these ques­tions, the anxi­ety crosses lines of gender, race, and class.

Teen­agers, re­spond­ing to a sep­ar­ate sur­vey, were no­tice­ably more up­beat about their pro­spects — and even adults were more op­tim­ist­ic about kids in their fam­il­ies and neigh­bor­hoods than in the coun­try over­all. And Amer­ic­ans across ra­cial and class dif­fer­ences de­livered a gen­er­ally fa­vor­able as­sess­ment of the op­por­tun­it­ies avail­able to chil­dren to re­ceive a qual­ity edu­ca­tion, good health care, and equal treat­ment re­gard­less of their race or gender.

Yet this com­pre­hens­ive look at at­ti­tudes about the state of child­hood in Amer­ica con­veys a wide­spread sense that fam­il­ies today face com­plex and in­ter­con­nec­ted chal­lenges rooted in an eco­nomy that typ­ic­ally re­quires earn­ings from two par­ents — and leaves them too little time to shape their chil­dren’s val­ues, es­pe­cially against the tug of an in­es­cap­able me­dia and on­line cul­ture. Par­ents are “let­ting tech­no­logy raise their kids,” says Chris Hupp, a 29-year-old bar­tender from San Ant­o­nio who re­spon­ded to the sur­vey. “Back then, a fam­ily could sus­tain it­self on one in­come. Now both par­ents have to work, and the kids end up rais­ing them­selves “¦ and that leads kids to make poor de­cisions.”

These are anxi­et­ies that have waxed and waned through Amer­ic­an life since wo­men star­ted mov­ing heav­ily in­to the work­force after 1960. But the poll leaves little doubt that the Great Re­ces­sion and its gruel­ing af­ter­math have sharpened these wor­ries. Some re­spond­ents fo­cused more on eco­nom­ic pres­sures, oth­ers on cul­tur­al and me­dia in­flu­ences, but both sets of con­cerns led most to the same place: a sense that fam­ily life is un­der enorm­ous strain. For kids today, wor­ries Con­nie Rivera, a se­cur­ity guard and a par­ent from the Bronx, N.Y., it’s a chal­lenge “just try­ing to stay afloat. It’s a com­pet­ing world”¦. They’re go­ing to have to settle for less.”

With the eco­nomy still strug­gling in low gear, the sur­vey also cap­tures a no­tice­able chill in pub­lic at­ti­tudes about the na­tion’s dir­ec­tion and polit­ic­al lead­er­ship. The share of Amer­ic­ans who say the coun­try is on the wrong track spiked in the poll to its highest level since Decem­ber 2011, and Pres­id­ent Obama’s ap­prov­al rat­ing skid­ded from last June to just 40 per­cent — the low­est meas­ured in any of the 18 quarterly Heart­land Mon­it­or polls con­duc­ted since April 2009. (See “Bad News for Obama”) At­ti­tudes to­ward Con­gress also hit a new low. When asked whom they trus­ted to make de­cisions af­fect­ing chil­dren, Amer­ic­ans ex­pressed mod­est con­fid­ence, at best, in any fig­ures bey­ond those closest to home, such as teach­ers. That find­ing re­af­firmed one of the most power­ful trends in the Heart­land Mon­it­or polling: the skep­ti­cism of most Amer­ic­ans that they can ex­pect help from any in­sti­tu­tion more dis­tant than the “little pla­toons” of com­munity and fam­ily.

THE BIG PIC­TURE

The latest All­state/Na­tion­al Journ­al Heart­land Mon­it­or Poll is the 18th in a series ex­amin­ing how Amer­ic­ans are ex­per­i­en­cing the chan­ging eco­nomy. This poll, which ex­plored how Amer­ic­ans as­sess the state of child­hood and par­ent­hood, sur­veyed 1,000 adults by land­line and cell phones Sept. 3-7. The sur­vey has a mar­gin of er­ror of plus or minus 3.1 per­cent­age points.

In ad­di­tion, Na­tion­al Journ­al con­duc­ted a sep­ar­ate on­line sur­vey of 300 teen­agers ages 13 to 18 (only in­clud­ing 18-year-olds who are still in high school); teen par­ti­cipants re­ceived a small com­pens­a­tion for re­spond­ing. The sur­vey is re­flect­ive of the demo­graph­ics of Amer­ic­an teens, but it does not carry the same stat­ist­ic­al valid­ity as the ran­dom phone sur­vey of adults.

Both sur­veys were su­per­vised by Ed Re­illy, Brent McGoldrick, Jeremy Ruch, and Jocelyn Land­au of FTI Con­sult­ing’s Stra­tegic Com­mu­nic­a­tions prac­tice.

The faith that each gen­er­a­tion will live bet­ter than its pre­de­cessor has been de­scribed as the op­er­at­ive defin­i­tion of the Amer­ic­an Dream. These latest Heart­land Mon­it­or res­ults show how a dec­ade of eco­nom­ic tur­moil and stag­na­tion has strained that con­vic­tion.

As in earli­er polls, Amer­ic­ans di­vided about equally on wheth­er the lad­der of up­ward mo­bil­ity is still op­er­at­ing in their own lives. Just un­der half of those polled (45 per­cent) say they have more op­por­tun­ity to get ahead than their par­ents did at the same age, but a com­bined ma­jor­ity say they either have less (27 per­cent) or about the same (26 per­cent) op­por­tun­ity. Minor­it­ies, as in earli­er sur­veys, re­main broadly op­tim­ist­ic, with 60 per­cent say­ing they have more op­por­tun­ity than their par­ents, versus 23 per­cent less. Whites are more equi­voc­al, with a mod­est 38 per­cent see­ing more op­por­tun­ity in their lives, to 29 per­cent who see less; whites without col­lege de­grees are even more du­bi­ous (35 per­cent to 31 per­cent).

Look­ing for­ward, Amer­ic­ans are much more uni­fied — and un­easy. Just 20 per­cent of those polled said that when today’s chil­dren are adults, they will have more op­por­tun­ity to get ahead than adults today; that’s the smal­lest num­ber the Heart­land Mon­it­or has re­cor­ded in the five times it has asked that ques­tion since Ju­ly 2009. More than twice as many re­spond­ents, 45 per­cent, say they ex­pect today’s kids to have less op­por­tun­ity as adults. That’s the most who have ever taken that pess­im­ist­ic po­s­i­tion. An­oth­er 30 per­cent ex­pect op­por­tun­it­ies to re­main about the same.

When the poll last asked this ques­tion, in Septem­ber 2012, 51 per­cent of minor­it­ies an­ti­cip­ated ex­pand­ing op­por­tun­it­ies, about double the level for whites. But in the new sur­vey, ex­pect­a­tions have darkened for both groups: Now just 36 per­cent of non­whites, and a mi­cro­scop­ic 14 per­cent of whites, be­lieve the next gen­er­a­tion will en­joy more op­por­tun­ity. (Strik­ingly, whites with col­lege de­grees, the group that has fared best in the re­ces­sion, are even more pess­im­ist­ic than whites without ad­vanced edu­ca­tion.) Young adults, ages 18 to 29, split about evenly about wheth­er op­por­tun­ity would in­crease or con­tract for today’s kids; but in every older age group, no more than one-fifth ex­pec­ted im­prove­ment. “All the factor­ies have gone over­seas,” says George Hack­el, a 76-year-old re­tired brick­lay­er in May­field, Ky. “There are less op­por­tun­it­ies un­less you want to be flip­ping ham­burgers.” Hupp, the San Ant­o­nio bar­tender, is nearly 50 years young­er, but he sees a sim­il­ar dy­nam­ic. “The cost of edu­ca­tion is go­ing up, and jobs are be­ing out­sourced to oth­er coun­tries,” Hupp says. “It’s a down­ward spir­al.”

These eco­nom­ic anxi­et­ies in­fuse the deeply dis­pir­ited re­sponses to the poll’s two broad­est ques­tions. One asked re­spond­ents wheth­er it was bet­ter to be a child in the U.S. now or when they were grow­ing up. Just 16 per­cent said they thought it was bet­ter to be a child today; 79 per­cent said it was bet­ter when they were young. On this ques­tion, minor­it­ies (at 28 per­cent) were more likely than whites (12 per­cent) to say kids were bet­ter off today. But even 70 per­cent of non­whites said chil­dren were bet­ter off dur­ing their own youth — a re­mark­able find­ing, giv­en the civil-rights ad­vance­ments over the past half-cen­tury. Res­ults on this ques­tion var­ied hardly at all by edu­ca­tion, and par­ents of school-age chil­dren leaned even slightly fur­ther to­ward pre­fer­ring the past. Those earn­ing at least $100,000 were nearly as likely as those earn­ing less than $30,000 to say child­hood was bet­ter be­fore.

The same dy­nam­ics held on a com­pan­ion ques­tion that asked re­spond­ents wheth­er it was bet­ter to be a par­ent today or when they were grow­ing up. Again, an over­whelm­ing 75 per­cent picked the past; just 19 per­cent said it is bet­ter to be a par­ent today. At least two-thirds of those in every age and in­come cat­egory, as well as more than 70 per­cent of whites and minor­it­ies, said it was bet­ter to be a par­ent in earli­er gen­er­a­tions.

Some of this surely re­flects the prim­al in­stinct to re­mem­ber the past through rose-colored glasses; adults have been lament­ing the cor­rup­tion of youth throughout hu­man his­tory. (“Why can’t they be like we were, per­fect in every way?” went the lyr­ics to “Kids,” a num­ber in the 1960 Broad­way mu­sic­al Bye Bye Bird­ie.) But the over­whelm­ing con­sensus in the sur­vey that fam­ily life was easi­er for earli­er gen­er­a­tions also seems to braid to­geth­er two dis­tinct, if in­ter­twined, con­cerns: a more con­ser­vat­ive lament about erod­ing val­ues, and a lib­er­al un­ease over con­strict­ing eco­nom­ic op­por­tun­ity.

Abe Keil, a 42-year-old air­craft mech­an­ic in St. Louis, was one of many re­spond­ents who saw cul­tur­al de­cline key­ing the chal­lenges to the mod­ern fam­ily. “When I was grow­ing up, you were cor­rec­ted at a friend’s house,” he in­sisted. “Now kids do what they want to do. The lib­er­als don’t think you should pun­ish your kid.” Sarah Goad, a 47-year-old who is un­em­ployed in Sum­mer­town, Tenn., sees a break­down in per­son­al re­spons­ib­il­ity. “They have no concept of re­spons­ib­il­ity: how to act “¦ how to func­tion out in the real world,” she says. “Their par­ents have handed them too much on a plat­ter.”

The oth­er track of con­cern fol­lows the eco­nom­ic threats cited by Hack­el and Hupp. Jesse Graczyk, who is un­em­ployed and watch­ing his kids in Avon, Ohio, while his wife works in a res­taur­ant, says it is dif­fi­cult to find the money for fam­ily activ­it­ies. “When I grew up, my mom was a stay-at-home mom and my dad worked; and back then, he was able to find ways to “¦ do things as a fam­ily,” he said. “Nowadays, it’s not af­ford­able to do fam­ily things.” Com­pound­ing his con­cern, Graczyk says, his wife’s hours makes it hard for her “to get qual­ity time with the kids” while he wor­ries they are get­ting “over-at­ten­tion from me.”

Joy Eis­en­hower, a re­tired nurse in Smyrna, Del., who has four adult chil­dren and is now rais­ing two young­er chil­dren as their leg­al guard­i­an, was one of many re­spond­ents who wor­ried that good jobs won’t be avail­able even for youths who can af­ford a col­lege edu­ca­tion. “We’re not giv­ing them the tools to be able to deal with a lot of things com­ing down the pike,” she says. “There’s no job se­cur­ity. Tech­no­logy is tak­ing a lot of jobs away. What place needs a tele­phone op­er­at­or?”

These twin strands of anxi­ety wound through re­sponses to an­oth­er bank of ques­tions that asked re­spond­ents about what today’s chil­dren could ex­pect when they come of age. Most of those polled ex­pressed con­cern about the ex­tern­al con­di­tions that will face the rising gen­er­a­tion — and the val­ues with which they will con­front those chal­lenges. Just 21 per­cent said that com­pared with today’s adults, young people will have more “fin­an­cial se­cur­ity, in­clud­ing a steady job and own­ing a home without too much debt,” while 68 per­cent thought they would have less of those things. Only 27 per­cent thought today’s kids would have more “fin­an­cial free­dom “¦ the abil­ity to af­ford some lux­ur­ies and a com­fort­able re­tire­ment,” while 62 per­cent thought those things would be more rare. Minor­it­ies were some­what more likely than whites to ex­pect im­prove­ment, but most of them as well thought con­di­tions would de­teri­or­ate.

The pro­gnos­is wasn’t much bet­ter on ex­pect­a­tions about the val­ues of the young­er gen­er­a­tion: 65 per­cent of adults thought that, com­pared with their own gen­er­a­tion, today’s kids as adults would dis­play less pat­ri­ot­ism; 63 per­cent thought their work eth­ic would flag; and 53 per­cent be­lieved they would be­have with less fin­an­cial re­spons­ib­il­ity. Des­pite stud­ies show­ing the mil­len­ni­al gen­er­a­tion pos­sess­ing a deep in­terest in vol­un­tar­ism and pub­lic ser­vice, 48 per­cent thought they would show less civic re­spons­ib­il­ity; 41 per­cent ex­pec­ted more. (Age shaped the re­sponses on this ques­tion: Young adults ages 18 to 29, by a sol­id 56 per­cent to 33 per­cent, thought today’s young people would ex­hib­it more civic re­spons­ib­il­ity.)

Some of this may re­flect the Bye Bye Bird­ie tend­ency of older people to see every gen­er­a­tion as a step back to­ward the swamp, but it’s worth not­ing that par­ents of school-age chil­dren didn’t dif­fer much on either these eco­nom­ic or val­ues judg­ments.

Giv­en these dim ex­pect­a­tions, it’s no sur­prise that those sur­veyed, by a re­sound­ing 66 per­cent to 25 per­cent, said that chil­dren in the U.S. today are faced with more chal­lenges than op­por­tun­it­ies. The res­ult was quite dif­fer­ent when the poll asked wheth­er “chil­dren in your com­munity, like those in your fam­ily and neigh­bor­hood,” face more chal­lenges or op­por­tun­it­ies than the av­er­age child. With the lens pulled tight­er, 45 per­cent of all adults said kids in their or­bit had more op­por­tun­it­ies than av­er­age, while 42 per­cent saw great­er than av­er­age chal­lenges; par­ents split 47 per­cent to 41 per­cent to­ward more op­por­tun­it­ies.

Still, that’s hardly a ringing en­dorse­ment. And this ques­tion pro­voked sharp­er dis­tinc­tions along class and ra­cial lines. While whites tilted slightly to­ward see­ing more op­por­tun­it­ies for kids in their ra­di­us, minor­it­ies bent to­ward see­ing great­er chal­lenges. The con­trast was even more vivid on edu­ca­tion and in­come: Those earn­ing at least $100,000 were more than twice as likely as those earn­ing less than $30,000 to see great­er than av­er­age op­por­tun­ity for kids in their im­me­di­ate circle. Nearly three-fifths of adults with col­lege de­grees saw more than av­er­age op­por­tun­it­ies for kids around them. Only about two-fifths of adults without de­grees agreed. Op­tim­ism about the next gen­er­a­tion is now an­oth­er entry on the long list of ways that life is di­ver­ging for Amer­ic­ans with and without ad­vanced edu­ca­tion.

OP­POR­TUN­IT­IES AND RISKS

In ad­di­tion, the poll offered a pan­or­amic look at how adults, in­clud­ing par­ents, as­sess the ma­jor op­por­tun­it­ies and risks con­front­ing today’s young people.

Amer­ic­ans offered reas­on­ably pos­it­ive as­sess­ments when asked to eval­u­ate wheth­er today’s chil­dren had ac­cess to a half-dozen con­di­tions that could help them suc­ceed, in­clud­ing qual­ity edu­ca­tion and health care; equal treat­ment re­gard­less of race or gender; suf­fi­cient love and at­ten­tion from their fam­ily; and enough time to play and have fun. In each case, no more than about two-fifths said these con­di­tions were “very ac­cess­ible” for the av­er­age child. But in all six cases, at least two-thirds thought these con­di­tions were either “very” or at least “some­what” ac­cess­ible for the av­er­age kid.

While just about one-fourth thought a qual­ity edu­ca­tion was very ac­cess­ible for the av­er­age child, an­oth­er 49 per­cent con­sidered it at least some­what ac­cess­ible. Eighty per­cent be­lieved the op­por­tun­ity to be treated equally “re­gard­less of gender, race, ori­ent­a­tion, or dis­ab­il­ity” was now very or some­what avail­able to chil­dren, with minor­it­ies, strik­ingly, re­spond­ing as pos­it­ively as whites. Re­spond­ents showed the most hes­it­a­tion when asked wheth­er today’s kids had “fu­ture op­por­tun­it­ies to get good jobs as adults”: Just 16 per­cent saw those op­por­tun­it­ies as widely avail­able, while an­oth­er 56 per­cent con­sidered them only some­what ac­cess­ible and about a fourth thought they were not very, or not at all, ac­cess­ible. On all of these meas­ures, par­ents of school-age chil­dren differed little from oth­er adults. About three-fourths of par­ents also ex­pressed sat­is­fac­tion with the child-care op­tions avail­able to them, with cost far out­dis­tan­cing qual­ity as the top con­cern.

Par­ents again var­ied little from oth­er adults when asked to rank 10 po­ten­tial chal­lenges fa­cing today’s young people. For each of the 10 chal­lenges lis­ted, at least 86 per­cent of adults said they presen­ted either a “very” or “some­what” ser­i­ous threat to chil­dren. Sol­id ma­jor­it­ies of 55 per­cent or more thought the av­er­age child faced “very ser­i­ous” risk (in as­cend­ing or­der) of miss­ing edu­ca­tion­al op­por­tun­it­ies be­cause they were too ex­pens­ive; ex­per­i­en­cing or wit­ness­ing vi­ol­ence in the home; en­dan­ger­ing their health with al­co­hol or ci­gar­ettes; be­ing ex­posed to vi­ol­ent or sexu­ally ex­pli­cit con­tent on­line or in the me­dia; los­ing their pri­vacy through the In­ter­net and so­cial me­dia; or be­ing ex­posed to drugs and crime in their neigh­bor­hood.

Rivera, the His­pan­ic se­cur­ity guard in the Bronx, feels those threats acutely. “When I was grow­ing up, there were more activ­it­ies school-wise to keep us out of the street,” she says. “Now my chil­dren go to school, and there’s no fund­ing and noth­ing for them to do after school. There are so many kids out­side, and that leads to bad stuff.” Not only urb­an par­ents wor­ried about the latch­key prob­lem. “Kids have chal­lenges, be­cause both par­ents work and they have no su­per­vi­sion,” says Brit­tany Hurst, a stay-at-home moth­er in the small vil­lage of We­st­on, Ohio. “Quite a few kids come over to play be­cause their par­ents are work­ing”¦. And a lot of the older teen­agers in the com­munity kind of just hang out and loiter at the park, smoking and things.”

When asked what they con­sidered the biggest threat to their chil­dren’s “safety and well-be­ing,” par­ents ranked in or­der un­safe driv­ing (22 per­cent); drug and al­co­hol use (19 per­cent); bul­ly­ing (16 per­cent); do­ing poorly in school (11 per­cent); and on­line pred­at­ors (10 per­cent). By con­trast, the teens polled in the sep­ar­ate on­line sur­vey thought their par­ents (by far) were most con­cerned about them do­ing poorly in school (43 per­cent), fol­lowed by drug and al­co­hol use (20 per­cent); bul­ly­ing (10 per­cent); and on­line pred­at­ors and un­safe sex (8 per­cent each). Just 7 per­cent of teens thought their par­ents wor­ried most about un­safe driv­ing, which was, in fact, par­ents’ top con­cern. That was only one of many areas in which today’s teens took a very dif­fer­ent pos­ture than their par­ents.

A DIS­SENT­ING VIEW

Per­haps not shock­ingly for any­one who has raised a teen or can re­call those years, the teen­agers who par­ti­cip­ated in a par­al­lel on­line poll ex­pressed pretty much the op­pos­ite view of their par­ents on sev­er­al ques­tions. But, in re­veal­ing ways, they also con­verged with older gen­er­a­tions.

On the big ques­tion of wheth­er teen­agers now face more op­por­tun­it­ies or chal­lenges, teens and the par­ents of teens broke in sim­il­ar dir­ec­tions, with two-thirds see­ing mostly chal­lenges. A 41 per­cent plur­al­ity of teens thought they per­son­ally had more op­por­tun­it­ies than the av­er­age teen­ager, com­pared with 27 per­cent who thought they faced more chal­lenges; par­ents of teens bent even fur­ther to­ward be­liev­ing their chil­dren en­joyed bet­ter-than-av­er­age op­por­tun­it­ies.

Teens and teens’ par­ents also differed only mod­estly in rank­ing the op­por­tun­it­ies avail­able to today’s youth, al­though teens were con­sid­er­ably less likely to be­lieve that “suf­fi­cient love and at­ten­tion from their fam­ily” was widely ac­cess­ible. The two groups broadly con­verged as well in rank­ing the threats fa­cing young people, ex­cept that teens were much less likely to be­lieve the av­er­age kid is ex­posed to vi­ol­ence out­side the home, or to con­sider me­dia vi­ol­ence a ser­i­ous threat.

Wider chasms opened on oth­er fronts. Un­like par­ents, teens showed much more op­tim­ism about the fu­ture and much less long­ing for the past. Es­sen­tially re­vers­ing the res­ults among adults, 45 per­cent of teens thought they would have more op­por­tun­it­ies to get ahead than today’s adults, while only 24 per­cent thought they would ex­per­i­ence few­er op­por­tun­it­ies. While adults over­whelm­ingly picked the past, teens split closely on wheth­er it is bet­ter to grow up today (54 per­cent) or in pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tions (46 per­cent). The groups differed again, but not nearly as much, on par­ent­ing: 40 per­cent of teens thought it was bet­ter to be a par­ent today (roughly double the share of par­ents of teen­agers who said so), but 60 per­cent still thought it was easi­er for earli­er gen­er­a­tions.

Some of the most telling con­trasts came in the way par­ents and teens as­sessed the way the lat­ter are spend­ing their time. Nearly three-fourths of par­ents of school-age kids ex­pressed a broad fear that par­ents “are too busy with work and their own per­son­al lives” to spend enough time with kids, while just un­der one-fifth wor­ried that “par­ents are too closely in­volved in every as­pect of their chil­dren’s lives.” Teens took the op­pos­ite view: 68 per­cent said their par­ents “are too closely in­volved in every as­pect of my life,” while 32 per­cent thought par­ents were too pre­oc­cu­pied with work.

Among adults, a re­sound­ing 76 per­cent said kids are spend­ing “too much time watch­ing TV and play­ing video games,” while only 16 per­cent said kids “are in­volved in too many sports, clubs, and activ­it­ies and are overly sched­uled.” The sur­vey didn’t ask teens to judge their di­git­al habits, but on the broad­er is­sue, they con­verged to a sur­pris­ing ex­tent with par­ents: 74 per­cent said they would “like to be in­volved in more or­gan­ized activ­it­ies that give me something to do,” while only 26 per­cent said they are over­sched­uled with such op­tions.

Still, teens re­jec­ted the por­trait of them as a gen­er­a­tion twid­dling their thumbs (or twid­dling them over video con­trols): Only 27 per­cent said they don’t par­ti­cip­ate in any ex­tra­cur­ricular activ­it­ies, and 44 per­cent said they are spend­ing at least six hours a week on those pur­suits. Nearly one in five said they work at a pay­ing job dur­ing the school year, and al­most three in 10 said they did so over the sum­mer.

Teens di­verged again from older gen­er­a­tions on two key ques­tions re­lat­ing to edu­ca­tion. Like earli­er Heart­land Mon­it­or polls, this sur­vey found a sur­pris­ing de­gree of di­vi­sion among adults over wheth­er a col­lege edu­ca­tion is “a tick­et to the middle class that helps people get good jobs” (53 per­cent), or “an eco­nom­ic bur­den that is of­ten too ex­pens­ive and re­quires tak­ing on debt to pay for” (39 per­cent). But teens wer­en’t nearly as con­flic­ted: 86 per­cent de­scribed col­lege as a good in­vest­ment, to only 14 per­cent who saw it as not worth the cost. More than two-thirds of teen­agers say they ex­pect to at­tend a four-year col­lege when they fin­ish high school; just 2 per­cent an­ti­cip­ate im­me­di­ately en­ter­ing the work­force.

An­oth­er telling dif­fer­ence came on a ques­tion about who is most re­spons­ible for kids suc­ceed­ing in school. Among par­ents of school-age chil­dren, some two-thirds picked par­ents, while about one-sixth iden­ti­fied teach­ers and only one in 10 named the chil­dren them­selves. Teens vir­tu­ally in­ver­ted those res­ults: Only one in eight picked par­ents, one in 14 picked teach­ers, and about four in five said they were most re­spons­ible per­son­ally for their school per­form­ance. For the most part, the poll found, teens are con­fid­ent about how they are ex­er­cising that re­spons­ib­il­ity: Asked to rate their sat­is­fac­tion with dif­fer­ent as­pects of their lives, teens put their school per­form­ance, health, per­son­al safety, and aca­dem­ic fu­ture at the top of the list, and their phys­ic­al ap­pear­ance and fam­ily’s fin­an­cial situ­ation at the bot­tom.

PAR­ENT­ING ALONE

The sense among par­ents that they — rather than teach­ers or the kids them­selves — bear primary re­spons­ib­il­ity for their chil­dren’s school per­form­ance cap­tures a con­sist­ent go-it-alone strain among them in the poll. In a vari­ety of ways, par­ents ex­pressed the be­lief that in rais­ing their chil­dren they are op­er­at­ing with few al­lies. And, mostly, the poll sug­gests, they are du­bi­ous that gov­ern­ment or big private in­sti­tu­tions will, or even should, do much to help them.

Al­though the sur­vey found that both par­ents and all adults demon­strated a sub­stan­tial trust in teach­ers, school ad­min­is­trat­ors, and coaches to make de­cisions that are good for kids, in­sti­tu­tions a step fur­ther from home re­ceived equi­voc­al rat­ings at best: 69 per­cent ex­pressed a “great deal” or “some” trust in re­li­gious lead­ers, 52 per­cent in Pres­id­ent Obama, 46 per­cent in state and loc­al gov­ern­ment lead­ers, 28 per­cent in Con­gress, and only 22 per­cent in com­pan­ies that pro­duce movies and video games for chil­dren.

The mod­ern com­mu­nic­a­tions re­volu­tion that has seen the pro­lif­er­a­tion of smart­phones, tab­lets, and so­cial me­dia also pro­voked a mixed re­ac­tion and stirred some of the most im­pas­sioned re­sponses in fol­low-up in­ter­views. Among all adults, 48 per­cent said the com­mu­nic­a­tions changes have had mostly a neg­at­ive ef­fect on chil­dren by ex­pos­ing them to in­ap­pro­pri­ate con­tent, com­prom­ising their pri­vacy or isol­at­ing them; 43 per­cent said they have had mostly pos­it­ive ef­fects by al­low­ing par­ents to stay in closer touch and provid­ing kids ac­cess to more in­form­a­tion. Par­ents tilted slightly fur­ther to­ward the neg­at­ive side. Hurst, a stay-at-home mom, was one of those who be­lieved the com­mu­nic­a­tions re­volu­tion is be­ne­fit­ing fam­il­ies. “It’s easi­er today, be­cause there’s a lot more abil­ity for par­ents to con­nect,” she says. “They can use the In­ter­net and com­puters as a par­ent­ing re­source.” But Jac­queline Mat­thews, a re­tired tele­phone op­er­at­or in Ports­mouth, Va., was one of many who wor­ried that di­git­al en­ter­tain­ment was con­sum­ing child­hood, partly be­cause it is filling the void left by the many par­ents who work out­side the home. “They’re in­volved with their own ca­reers a lot and pawn their kids off on com­puters,” she says.

Par­ents don’t seem to be an­ti­cip­at­ing much help from busi­ness or gov­ern­ment, either. Just 43 per­cent of par­ents (and 42 per­cent of all adults) agreed that the “en­tire coun­try has a shared re­spons­ib­il­ity to in­vest more in chil­dren and young fam­il­ies,” with such policies as paid leave or flex­ible work sched­ules that may be avail­able only to par­ents; 48 per­cent of par­ents (and 51 per­cent of all adults) en­dorsed the com­pet­ing state­ment that “rais­ing “¦ chil­dren is the re­spons­ib­il­ity of the par­ents” and “should not be sub­sid­ized through high­er costs for busi­nesses [or] “¦ high­er taxes and longer work­ing hours for non­par­ents.”

Even more em­phat­ic­ally, only about one-third of both par­ents and oth­er adults said the best way to make rear­ing chil­dren more af­ford­able is to in­crease “pub­lic spend­ing on pro­grams like uni­ver­sal pre-K, im­prove­ments in primary and sec­ond­ary edu­ca­tion, sub­sidies for child care, guar­an­teed health care for chil­dren, and col­lege tu­ition as­sist­ance, even if it means high­er taxes.” About three-fifths of par­ents and oth­er adults said a bet­ter way to help par­ents was to cut taxes, “even if it means less spend­ing on pub­lic pro­grams.” Minor­it­ies were more likely than whites to prefer pub­lic spend­ing, but even a slight ma­jor­ity of them picked tax cuts. When it comes to rais­ing chil­dren, all of these res­ults sug­gest, par­ents very much feel that they are home alone.

Michael Mellody contributed to this article.
What We're Following See More »
THE PLAN ALL ALONG?
Manchin Drops Objections, Clearing Way for Spending Deal
12 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The Senate standstill over a stopgap spending bill appeared headed toward a resolution on Friday night. Senators who were holding up the measure said votes are expected later in the evening. West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin had raised objections to the continuing resolution because it did not include a full year's extension of retired coal miners' health benefits," but Manchin "said he and other coal state Democrats agreed with Senate Democratic leaders during a caucus meeting Thursday that they would not block the continuing resolution, but rather use the shutdown threat as a way to highlight the health care and pension needs of the miners."

Source:
UNCLEAR WHAT CAUSED CHANGE OF HEART
Giuliani Out of Running For State
14 hours ago
BREAKING

Donald Trump transition team announced Friday afternoon that top supporter Rudy Giuliani has taken himself out of the running to be in Trump's cabinet, though CNN previously reported that it was Trump who informed the former New York City mayor that he would not be receiving a slot. While the field had seemingly been narrowed last week, it appears to be wide open once again, with ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson the current favorite.

Source:
ALSO VICE-CHAIR OF TRUMP’S TRANSITION TEAM
Trump Taps Rep. McMorris Rodgers for Interior Secretary
20 hours ago
BREAKING
SHUTDOWN LOOMING
House Approves Spending Bill
1 days ago
BREAKING

The House has completed it's business for 2016 by passing a spending bill which will keep the government funded through April 28. The final vote tally was 326-96. The bill's standing in the Senate is a bit tenuous at the moment, as a trio of Democratic Senators have pledged to block the bill unless coal miners get a permanent extension on retirement and health benefits. The government runs out of money on Friday night.

HEADS TO OBAMA
Senate Approves Defense Bill
1 days ago
THE LATEST

The Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act today, sending the $618 billion measure to President Obama. The president vetoed the defense authorization bill a year ago, but both houses could override his disapproval this time around.

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login