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Teenagers Are More Optimistic About Future Than Adults, Survey Finds

While adults tend think life was better back in the day and the future for their kids is uncertain, teenagers have a more optimistic outlook, according to a new Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll.

Most American adults (79 percent) feel that life was better for kids when they were growing up than it is for young people today. Yet, 54 percent of teens surveyed say it's better to be a teenager today than it was for their parents.

The Heartland poll, released last week, sampled 1,000 adults by phone in early September and 300 teenagers in a follow-up online survey. It noted distinct differences in attitudes between the generations, with young people expressing more hope.

Just 20 percent of the adults surveyed believe that today's children will have more opportunity to get ahead in their lives when they are grown, while 45 percent think they will have less, and 30 percent expect opportunity will be about the same. Among teens, 45 percent feel they will have more opportunity than their parents and 31 percent of young adults ages 18 to 29 are upbeat about their future being brighter.

Americans have a tendency to view the past through "rose-colored glasses," said Edward Reilly, global chief executive officer of strategic communications at FTI consulting, at a forum in Washington Sept. 20 to discuss the results of the 18th quarterly Heartland Monitor Poll. In the wake of the economic recession, when many families have been struggling, the poll indicates heavy skepticism. "The concern about the future is broad and it is deep," said Reilly.

The younger generation sees value in education. Nearly 86 percent of teenagers polled said college is a good investment in the future. Young people surveyed anticipate paying for college with a combination of sources. About 50 percent expect their parents will help pay for school, while 35 percent expect to pay for it themselves. Nearly 80 percent of teens are hoping to get a scholarship or grant and one-third anticipate they will take out loans.

On the issue of "helicopter parents," although 86 percent of teens said their parents are too involved in their lives, just 22 percent of parents felt they were hovering. Despite discussion of children being over-scheduled, the poll found that both parents (75 percent) and teens (74 percent) would like children to be more involved in organized activities.

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