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Researchers Ask: Are People Better Off Than 50 Years Ago? ( 357

Long-time Slashdot reader gollum123 quotes MarketWatch: Are you doing better than the previous generation? The Pew Research Center, a nonprofit think tank in Washington, D.C., asked nearly 43,000 people in 38 countries around the globe that question this past spring. Residents in 20 countries said people like them were better off than they were 50 years ago. In Vietnam, 88% felt better off, followed by India (69%), South Korea (68%), Japan (65%), Germany (65%), Turkey (65%), the Netherlands (64%), Sweden (64%), Poland (62%) and Spain (60%)...

The U.S. was among the other 18 countries in which people said they were actually worse off than half a century ago. In Senegal, 45% felt this way, followed by Nigeria (54%), Kenya (53%), the U.S. (41%), Ghana (47%), Brazil (49%), France (46%), Hungary (39%), Lebanon (54%) and Peru (46%).

55% of Canadians feel they're better off, while just 45% of people in the U.K. feel the same way, according to the article.

"Venezuela, which has suffered from political unrest and economic turbulence in recent years, was last on the list. Some 72% people there said they felt worse off than 50 years ago."
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Researchers Ask: Are People Better Off Than 50 Years Ago?

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  • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Sunday December 24, 2017 @01:31AM (#55798881)

    Are people happier? Unlikely. But they may have greater opportunity and their impacts can be broader. But in the stories my grandfather told me I sense a great deal of exciting things. To go to town they had to marshal their team of horses and brush them out afterwards, in the cold (you could see the horse's breath). But that sort of chore and ritual can be deeply grounding, satisfying, and slower paced. Not worse. Maybe you don't accomplish as much on average? is that important?

  • by thinkwaitfast ( 4150389 ) on Sunday December 24, 2017 @01:35AM (#55798889)

    73% among those 50 and older say life is better now compared with 59% who say this among 18- to 29-year-olds

    • by pz ( 113803 )

      I'm among that older demographic. I also have a nearly identical job as my father did (faculty at a big, well-known academic institution), and I live in the same city in which I grew up.

      The economic structure 50 years ago was such that my father could support his family without any additional income (read: he had only one job, and my mother did not work). He could afford to buy a big house in a nice suburb. He could send his kids to private school. Now, both my wife and I must work, I pick up consulting

      • by jon3k ( 691256 )
        Why do you think that is? Is your income less than your fathers or is the cost of living higher? Or a little of column A and B?
      • I'm guessing you're a white man. Ask a woman or African-American whether they're better off than 50 years ago.

        50 years ago the classified ads were divided into "Men Wanted" (engineers, lawyers, truck drivers, carpenters, etc.) and "Women Wanted" (secretaries, nurses, receptionists, etc.). If you were a woman you couldn't get just any job, no matter how qualified you might be. You could only get the jobs that people thought women were suited for. A woman's first job was to raise her family.

        50 years ago A

  • by ugen ( 93902 ) on Sunday December 24, 2017 @01:42AM (#55798905)

    Majority of world population (and pretty much everyone of the adult working age) either wasn't around 50 years ago or, if they were, were too young to really understand. Combine that with various confirmation biases, tendency to forget the negative and overstate how good things were back in the old days - and this question is, essentially, meaningless as a true gauge of change in life quality.

    At most all it does is measure how whiny a given group of people is. And US residents are some of the whiniest in the world (but, unsurprisingly, France beats us on this one, if only just a bit)

    • by dryeo ( 100693 )

      For much of the world, things were measurably worse 50 years ago. Vietnam seems to lead the list, 50 years ago there was war there. India, more people starving then now, Europe was still recovering from the war and it seems most of them think things have improved. Corrupt nations such as Venezuela have seen things get much worse.

    • by sound+vision ( 884283 ) on Sunday December 24, 2017 @03:04AM (#55799103) Journal
      The surveys are designed to measure very specific sentiments people have. Knowing people's sentiments can be useful and interesting - most immediately to the fields of psychology and sociology, which in turn have an impact on basically everything humans are involved in. It doesn't measure actual quality-of-life, and doesn't pretend to. There are a bunch of studies that do try to measure quality-of-life, and off the top of my head, those studies pretty much agree with people's sentiments.
    • Here in the UK there's a large proportion of people who think life was good during WW2 because their knowledge of it is derived mainly from movies showing everyone working together. Rosy tinted views of the past are easy to pick up, as is shown by many of the posts here.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Boy the way Glenn Miller Played
    Songs that made the Hit Parade
    Guys like us we had it made
    Those were the days.

    And you knew who you were then
    Girls were girl and men were men
    Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover again

    Didn't need no Welfare state
    Everybody pulled his weight
    Gee our old Lasalle Ran great

    Those were the days!

  • Complain all you want, but in the late 50s and early 60s the cure for Poleo was discovered and administered....

  • by Sigma 7 ( 266129 ) on Sunday December 24, 2017 @02:01AM (#55798951)

    First, you should check what's back in 1967:

    1. Cold war era. Basically a chance of nuclear warfare.Tensions have reduced nowadays.
    2. Less chance of socialized health care. Also, health care was less advanced.
    3. In 'Murica, Still clinging on the good-old racial ideology, and still being pissy about it. (If they didn't want such racial tensions, maybe they shouldn't have kidnapped those people en-masse.) Generally a solved problem provided people keep remembering how the alt-right actually works.
    4. More difficult knowledge dissemenation. Sure there's the library, etc, but if you need something esoteric or need to start specializing, that's harder 50 years ago. Plus people can make their won portable libraries on computers, if desired.
    • Less chance of socialized health care.

      In 1967, the Republican Health Care plan was essentially the affordable care act, as passed by the democrats less than 10 years ago. Seems like we've been moving away from that.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I think they were kidnapped by their own countrymen...or more accurately, by warring tribes. At least this is what I got out of when I was there. I had a friend teacher who assigned a paper to his class to describe something that helped his country out and one of the students turned in a paper on the slave trade.
    • 1967 was the Summer of Love. Turn on, tune in, drop out. Then again I was only 3 years old at the time so I don't remember any of it.
  • by dgatwood ( 11270 ) on Sunday December 24, 2017 @02:02AM (#55798953) Homepage Journal

    Fifty years ago, Americans were being drafted to fight in the Vietnam war — a war so bloody and so largely useless that people were marching in the streets against it and fleeing the country to avoid it. In that same year, nationwide race riots led to over 100 deaths, and just three years later, the Kent State massacre happened, completely devastating Americans' trust in its government, followed shortly thereafter by Nixon's criminal conspiracy and resignation. And you can't even pretend that things were better a few years before that. After all, only fifty-five years ago, our country nearly ended the world during the Cuban missile crisis.

    I hope and pray that most of the respondents didn't think very hard about that question before answering. Because if they did, then either our high school history books have become so whitewashed that nobody gets the full picture of just how bad things really were in America fifty years ago, the respondents slept through their American history classes, or the respondents did a little too much PCP in the 70s and don't remember the 60s anymore. Just saying.

  • Hmm, my own case... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Sunday December 24, 2017 @02:15AM (#55798985)

    Old guy opinion follows:

    Assuming I were my current age 50 years ago, I'd be long dead. The fix for my problems weren't even conceived of then. As is, in spite of my previous problems, and in spite of missing several internal organs, I expect I'll survive another 20 years or so (and in so doing, live longer than any of my grandparents managed).

    Now, one could argue that being able to make the previous statement to a worldwide audience in almost realtime is a bad thing, but I also happen to think that that's one of the major improvements in life in the last 50 years (Yes, I was born rather before the internet existed).

    And other things too numerous to mention. Hell, I was around before cable TV, much less the internet...

  • Housing costs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by locater16 ( 2326718 ) on Sunday December 24, 2017 @02:18AM (#55798993)
    The price of the average home has nearly doubled in the US over the last 50 years. Similar in the UK. A large part of the reason for this is that while the efficiency of making almost anything has gone up over time, the efficiency for building construction has actually gone down for many first world countries over the past 50 years. There's any number of reasons. Ever tighter construction standards that have absolutely no unification, a tighter job market with a lot more demand for workers more skilled than what construction will pay, etc. But the biggest are that construction is still a million tiny contractors that can't afford large scale investments, and that the tech for construction hasn't advanced much in 50 years. Someone from decades ago would still recognize most of what a construction worker does today.

    For all that robotics is set to change this majorly over the next decade. Brick laying robots and rebar tying ones and etc. will start replacing a lot of construction work. But it doesn't help this very moment. Shelter is the other half of that "food and" for basics a person anywhere would hope to have. And having soaring housing costs all over the place isn't helping. Anyone hoping to get elected in the US or UK soonish would do well to tell people they'll do something about it, even though they can't actually do much.
    • Until around 2000, the price of a home (on average) basically kept up with inflation.

    • The price of the average home has nearly doubled in the US over the last 50 years

      So what you are saying is that houses are getting cheaper per area?

      "The average American house size has more than doubled since the 1950s []; it now stands at 2,349 square feet".

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        So what you are saying is that houses are getting cheaper per area? "The average American house size has more than doubled since the 1950s; it now stands at 2,349 square feet".

        Yep, bigger house built to a better standard with fewer [] kids. A lot of the perceived "needs" of children today like each having their own room or of the parents like having a separate master bathroom would be an extravagant luxury in the 1960s. People are better off but they're still struggling equally hard or harder to keep up with everyone else. If your kid is the one with no Playstation and no iPhone it doesn't really help to say that you didn't have a Playstation or an iPhone when you grew up either. Cl

        • A lot of the perceived "needs" of children today like each having their own room or of the parents like having a separate master bathroom would be an extravagant luxury in the 1960s.

          Yeppers. Didn't have a bedroom to myself till my elder brother went off to college. And my parents didn't have a master bathroom till a year or so later, as I recall....

        • Just say no. It solves many problems. Your kids won't hate you forever and it will give them an advantage in life.
    • Re:Housing costs (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Tablizer ( 95088 ) on Sunday December 24, 2017 @03:54AM (#55799185) Journal

      The actual cost of the building is secondary to many other issues. Many communities actually don't want to make it easy to build new dwellings because they don't want traffic, immigrants, and change in general: for good or bad, people don't like change.

      And the local gov't finds that they get more tax revenue if new houses cater to the wealthy, and therefore don't even try to make new housing cheaper. If newbies come in, they want rich newbies.

    • The majority of soaring house costs are from opportunity and scarcity costs.

      EG, "Good jobs in the city--- City is mostly big business buildings, no housing. What little housing there is, is very high demand-- so HUGE FUCKING PRICES" Couple that with absurd city zoning, and you have spiraling costs.

      As jobs get more and more concentrated into tinier and tinier geographic areas, this trend will continue. Throw in high wage disparities, and you end up with very strange things happening indeed.

      It has little to

  • Why not come out and mention the real cause of Venezuela's nightmare: Socialism [].

  • In that time, I was already in my second year of college. Any diagnosis of cancer other than basal cell meant you automatically prepared for death. So far as we could see, the war in Vietnam would go on forever. Having scientific interests in that era meant being so radically different from everyone else that they might as well be living on another planet. Because no ordinary person had ever seen a computer, there was no inkling of how they might one day assume a place in the general culture. "Electronics"

  • by dcw3 ( 649211 ) on Sunday December 24, 2017 @07:56AM (#55799711) Journal

    So, the response from Americans likely had a lot of people who weren't alive 50 yrs ago. I was 9 back then, so let me help you. It was 1967

    1. We were in a hugely unpopular war in Vietnam.
    2. There were race riots in the streets of Detroit...I lived there
    3. Most people had 3-5 channels of black and white TV that typically ended around midnight.
    4. Few people places air conditioning
    5. Home telephones typically had "party lines" shared your number with neighbors and took turns.
    6. There were no ATMs, grocery scanners, cell phones, personal computers, or even calculators.
    7. Only about 50% of people completed high can check census facts. Less than 20% had a 4 yr degree
    8. Life expectancy was 14 years lower

    I would argue that families were more tight knit back then, but other than that, if you think you're not better off today, you'll have to come up with some facts to back it up.

    • 1. But it didn't affect anyone here, and there are always wars, maybe one with Korea
      2. And what has changed?
      3. And most people were happy with that and then had more time to get off the couch and do something
      4. People had more time to sit in a cool bath.
      5. People don't recognize the old way was bad until they have the new way.
      6. See number 5.
      7. Yet most of them got a job and were able to survive... with less effort and expense!
      8. Again, people accept the way things are as long as there isn't a massiv
  • Are people getting better at ranking the results of surveys from top to bottom than 50 years ago?

    Apparently not;

  • Are you sure people are aware of what was happening 50 years ago, unless they are if 70+ demographics?

  • 50 years ago venereal disease wasn't permanent and/or didn't kill you. There were no drinking and driving laws nor much social awareness of them. There was no terrorism. A family could be middle class and live comfortably off a single income. Insurance had no out of pocket cost and the employer paid 100%. College was affordable and there were virtually no student loans, meaning you could almost pay for it all by working yourself- full time in summer and part time during school. Governments and corpo
  • ... anybody over 60?


  • were like 50 years ago from people who are less than about 70 years old?

  • by rbrander ( 73222 ) on Sunday December 24, 2017 @12:58PM (#55800691) Homepage

    I'm definitely richer at 59 than 9. Solved.

    The real comparison is to my Dad, of course, 38 years older than I. I'm somewhat better off than he, but not much. Not really enough, considering I got two college degrees and he worked his way up to "engineer" from "surveyman" (when "engineer" was a job description, not always licensed) from only high school. He could afford to retire at the same age, actually had a bigger house. But my place is better located, and I'll be able to manage a little more travel. Much of that, however, comes from our inheritances from parents - he got almost nothing from his, same for my wife's parents.

    A younger friend of mine who is about 60 years younger than my Dad, recently mentioned that when she wished aloud to just quit, her son joked she couldn't afford not to work unless she has a magic wand that makes money. Her nine-year-old was dead right. My parents never *needed* two incomes the way my friend does. Dad supported three kids, bought a 1600 sf. split level for us, took us on vacations to Disneyland and Mexico, had us all in an athletic club for the pool and skating rinks - on the salary of a highway construction engineer, never got past mid-level.

    Oh, and all three of kid kids went to college, needing only summer jobs to pay the tuition; the only family expense was free rent and food.

    As a report from Piketty's institute just confirmed ( [] ) "inequality in the Americas has been soaring since 1980", shortly after Dad retired. The Reagan/Thatcher Revolution ("Mulroney" here in Canada) won, and my young friend who can't quit her job, lost.

  • People in their 20s and 30s have no clue how far we've come. My mother (RIP) was one of the earliest recipients of a triple heart bypass in 1980. She lived another 37 years. When I was a kid, it was a big deal to have your own computer.

    Also, get off my lawn.

  • I mean, stupid questions. 50 years ago we had Viet Nam, the cold war, racism that makes the tiny flares of it that we have no seem like a joke by comparison. Women were pretty much chattel. The world teetered on the perpetual brink of nuclear war. Poverty (as a percentage of the population) was rampant worldwide and what COUNTED as poverty was a lot poorer than what is counted as poverty now. A huge fraction of the world's population lived under outright tyrannies and oligarchies without even the fig l

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"