A new global study reveals that foreigners are more upbeat about economic prospects in the U.S. than Americans are, and it indicates that the Great Recession has been especially prolonged and widespread for Americans.
The Boston Consulting Group found that nonresidents cited economic opportunity, material well-being and cost of living as key reasons for wanting to live in the United States. Nonresidents ranked America No. 3 on the list of best countries to live, behind Australia and Canada.
Not surprisingly, survey respondents in the U.S. chose English-speaking countries as their favorite places to live. U.S. residents ranked it as their first choice, followed by Canada, Australia and the U.K. But unlike foreigners, Americans placed a much higher value on noneconomic reasons for living stateside, including political freedom, and cultural and religious tolerance.
"It's revealing that nonresidents feel more positive about the economic opportunities in the U.S. than residents," said Christine Barton, a Dallas-based BCG partner who led the research on consumer attitudes and top places to live. "What the research may suggest is that the recession has tempered Americans' enthusiasm for economic opportunity," she said.
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While the BCG study uncovered pockets of economic doubt, it found that Americans broadly are optimistic compared with people in other developed nations. People globally have responded to hard times by becoming more resilient and adapting to a new "baseline" that includes nagging worries about retirement, job security and caring for aging parents, Barton said.
The study also unearthed generational differences about where to live and work. U.S. millennials are looking abroad for opportunities; older people, anchored by families and other commitments, want to stay home and pin their hopes on the U.S. economy.
Just ask John Bragg.
Bragg, 62, is general manager at Barn Light Electric, a small business in Titusville, Fla., that makes porcelain enamel fixtures—a rarity in U.S. manufacturing. He served in the army and Vietnam War, then transitioned to West Virginia's coal mines. He worked there for 29 years, weathering strikes and unsteady paychecks before eventually making his way to Florida.
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If his nephew hadn't offered him a job at the lighting company, Bragg would be retired, he said. He counts himself among the lucky working Americans and is hopeful about the future—but with caveats.
"There is a lot of unemployment in the state, homes up for sale," he said. The region, east of Orlando, has been hit by cutbacks at the nearby Kennedy Space Center. "I think the economy will come back, but I don't think it will be high-paying jobs," he added.
In fact, roughly 58 percent of jobs recovered from the recession are low wage, according to the National Employment Law Project. Low-tier positions grew 2.7 times as fast as mid- and higher-wage occupations.
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