New MassINC Poll Shows Young Adults Have Confidence in the American Dream Not in Government

Young adults in Massachusetts still have strong belief in the American dream despite personal financial stress, and have a higher level of confidence in the private sector than the government, according to the new MassINC survey, Great Expectations: A Survey of Young Adults in Massachusetts, released today. The survey which polls young people between the ages of 25 and 39 on a wide range of topics from personal finances, jobs, and religion to government, media, and civic engagement is the first of its kind.

Overall young adults strongly believe in the American Dream. They see a bright future for themselves and also for future generations. Only 4 percent think that their incomes will go down over the next five years, and only 7 percent of young adults who are parents think that their children will be worse off than they are financially.

However, the majority of young adults in Massachusetts lack confidence in government’s effectiveness to address issues that matter to them. Sixty-two percent are either not too confident or not at all confident about government’s ability to improve the policy area that matters most to them, and only 4 percent are very confident.

The survey also uncovers a very strong connection between their confidence in government and their views on taxes. Overall 41 percent of young adults believe that taxes are about right or too low. But, among those who have either not too much or no confidence in government, only 21 percent believe that taxes are about right or too low.

“The choices of young adults about where to live and work are critical to our state’s future and their lack of confidence in government to improve the quality of life in Massachusetts is a troubling wake-up call to our public officials,” said Greg Torres, President of MassINC.

In sharp contrast to their views about the public sector, young adults are overwhelmingly positive about their jobs and current employers. A substantial majority of the employed reports being satisfied with their jobs. In addition, the importance of working for a socially responsible employer is a clear priority. Nearly three-quarters of young adults believe that it is very important to work for an employer who is respectful of ethical values, people, communities, and the environment. Remarkably, nearly 90 percent think that their current employer meets that test.

Finances are the biggest problem facing young adults and their families, with 30 percent saying that personal finances, paying bills, not having enough money, and making ends meet is their biggest problem. Another 20 percent call the high cost of living and housing their biggest problem. Most young adults say they have experienced financial strain in the past five years with 32 percent admitting to taking on more debt than they can handle. Four in 10 (41%) young adults report that they have $10,000 or more in total debt, including all debt from credit cards, loans, and medical bills but not including a mortgage.

About one in five (22%) young adults expect to leave Massachusetts over the next five years, with 32 percent of that group citing the cost of living as their main reason for leaving. When asked “What if anything could state and government local policymakers do that might make you more likely to stay?,” the three most common answers were: reduce taxes, make housing more affordable, and improve job opportunities.

“Young adults make up the strength of our economy and the vibrancy of our civic life,” said Jay Curley, Senior Vice President, Public, Government and Regulatory Affairs at Blue Cross Blue Shield. “It’s incredibly valuable for corporations, governments and community leaders to hear what this group is collectively saying – about where they want to work and live – and what binds them to a community.”

This survey is based on 801 young people between the ages of 25 and 39. It includes a wide range of topics from personal finances, jobs, and religion to government, media and civic engagement. It reveals a comprehensive and fascinating picture of young people’s views, both about their personal lives as well as on public policy issues. The survey, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International, is sponsored by Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Massachusetts with MassHousing and State Street Foundation.

“As a global industry leader, State Street understands the importance of corporate social responsibility to current and future employees,” said George Russell, Executive Vice President of State Street Corporation. “It is important that we strive to understand the needs and interests of young adults so we can continue to attract and retain a diverse and talented workforce.”

The survey identifies three specific subgroups of young adults: those who moved to Massachusetts as adults (Imports); those who grew up in Massachusetts (Homegrowns); and those who grew up in Massachusetts and lived outside the state as adults for at least a year and returned (Boomerangs). There are key demographic differences between these subgroups. For instance, 60 percent of Imports have a college degree compared with 32 percent of Homegrowns. Jobs, education and skills are more of a concern for Homegrowns. Among Imports who are concentrated in Greater Boston, housing and cost of living are key issues.

“We know that increasing our affordable housing stock is critical to the state’s economic competitiveness,” said Tom Gleason, Executive Director of Mass Housing. “We must redouble our efforts to insure that we have housing that’s affordable across a range of income levels through the state.”

Other Key Findings:

  • Young adults in Massachusetts stand out as a group with high levels of education; nearly half (46%) hold a four-year college degree or higher.
  • They are also changing the face of Massachusetts, with one quarter (26%) identifying themselves as African-American, Hispanic, Asian, mixed race, or a race other than white.
  • Nearly half (49%) have an income of $50,000 or higher, and more than half (51%) are married with children. Fifty four percent own a home, with many more expecting to purchase one within the next several years.
  • For young adults living in Greater Boston, the cost of living and high housing costs stand out as the biggest challenge. Sixty-one percent of those living in Greater Boston believe that the availability of affordable housing needs major improvement, compared with 46 percent of those living elsewhere. For those living outside of Greater Boston, the availability of good-paying jobs as much as housing costs, with 44 percent saying major improvement is needed, compared with only 31 percent of those living in Greater Boston.

About MassINC:

The Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth (MassINC) MassINC (The Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth) is a nonpartisan, evidence-based organization. Its mission is to develop a public agenda for Massachusetts that promotes the growth and vitality of the middle class. Its governing philosophy is rooted in the ideals embodied in the American Dream: equality of opportunity, personal responsibility, and a strong commonwealth.

About Princeton Survey Research Associates International (PSRAI):
PSRAI is a full-service, independent, public opinion research firm specializing in surveys about social, political and public policy issues. Our clients include media organizations, foundations, non-profit organizations, and corporations. We conduct surveys by telephone, mail, personal interview, and online in the United States, Canada, South and Central America, Europe, and Asia.

About Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts:

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts ( was founded 71 years ago by a group of community-minded business leaders.  Today, headquartered in Boston, BCBSMA provides coverage to more than 3 million members.  BCBSMA believes in rewarding doctors and hospitals for delivering safe and effective care, and in empowering patients to take more responsibility, become educated health care consumers and become stronger partners with their doctors.  Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.

About MassHousing:

The Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency, now doing business as MassHousing, is the leading provider of affordable housing in Massachusetts. Since 1970, MassHousing has provided more than $10.6 billion in financing for more than 97,000 units of mixed-income rental housing and more than 54,000 mortgage loans for homeowners. For more information, visit the MassHousing website at

About State Street Foundation:

The State Street Foundation offers grant support to initiatives that bring long-term solutions to important community issues such as employability, hunger relief, financial literacy and homelessness, among others.  Founded in 1977, the Foundation has since given $120 million in grants to charitable organizations in communities where State Street has a business presence. The State Street Foundation is funded by State Street Corporation, which provides a portion of its pre-tax profits every year to the Foundation. 

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