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More Americans see themselves as poor

14:30 AEST Tue Sep 11 2012
AAP
More Americans see themselves as poor
More Americans see themselves as poor

More Americans - including growing numbers of young people and whites --see themselves as members of the lower classes.

At 32 per cent, about a third of adults consider themselves part of society's disadvantaged sectors, up from a quarter four years ago, according to a national survey carried out by the Pew Research Centre on Monday.

Thirty-nine per cent of young adults aged between 18 and 29 say they are on the lower rungs of the social ladder, an increase of 14 points over 2008.

While four years ago, 23 per cent of whites saw themselves as lower class, this year's figure stands at 31 per cent. Hispanics saw a 10-point increase, from 30 per cent to 40 per cent.

In contrast, the number of blacks who identify as lower class stayed unchanged at 33 per cent.

With fewer than 60 days to go before Americans head to the polls, more Democrats than Republicans position themselves in the lower classes, but with Republicans seeing a larger increase than their rivals across the aisle.

Thirty-three per cent of Democrats meanwhile now see themselves as lower class, up from 29 per cent in 2008.

Times have been particularly tough on the lower class, with eight in 10 adults -- or 84 per cent -- saying they had to cut back on spending in the past year due to financial shortfalls.

That figure compares to 62 per cent of those who say they are part of the middle class and 41 per cent who consider themselves as upper class.

But that's not all.

"Those in the lower classes also say they are less happy and less healthy, and the stress they report experiencing is more than other adults," the survey said.

About three-quarters, or 77 per cent, say it is harder to get ahead now than it was a decade ago.

Blacks and Hispanics are more optimistic about the future of their children than whites, 42 per cent of whom think their children's standard of living will be worse than their own.

The findings are based on telephone interviews with 2,508 adults between July 16 and 26.