Wow, Americans Are a Lot More Miserable About the Economy Than Canadians

Maybe it's time to rethink that whole trope about American optimism.

Pew_Canada_v_US_Economically_Miserable.JPGCanada's unemployment rate is only a smidge better than America's, and its GDP is growing slightly slower. So how come our northerly neighbors seem so much pleased with their economy?

A big new study from Pew Research Center on international attitudes toward the economy includes this head-to-head chart comparing Canadian and U.S. sentiment -- and man, does it make us look despondent. Fifty-five percent of Canadians are satisfied with their country, and 67 percent believe their economy is in good shape. Less than a third of Americans feel the same. Canadians also seem to be happier about their personal finances and less worried about rising prices, unemployment, public debt, or having enough money to pay for basic necessities. 

Americans, on the other hand, are slightly more likely to believe their children will be better off than their parents, and that their personal finances will improve. Of course, majorities in both countries think otherwise.

Pew's takeaway is that while Canada is far more content with the present state of things, Americans have a bit more hope for the future. But I think it's equally fair to conclude that Canadians already feel they have a pretty good lot, and there isn't room for dramatic improvement. 

Perhaps this is all just emotional scarring from the recession. Perhaps there's a psychological boost that comes with having a robust social safety net, or maybe living in a country with lower income inequality really does makes people more at ease. Perhaps that American optimism politicians like to talk about is just way overrated. In any event, it apparently feels very good to be a Canadian these days. 


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Jordan Weissmann is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic.

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