Millennials in emerging markets in particular are much more positive about their future (see diagram below). Nigerian Millennials top the list (85 percent strongly agree with the statement), and those in Western Europe tend to be most pessimistic about their prospects (just 20 percent strongly agree their standard of living will exceed their parents). Interestingly, even in the places hardest hit by the recent financial turmoil, such as Spain or Italy, only a quarter or less of Millennials think they will eventually be worse off than their parents.
When interpreting these findings, we must be mindful that countries and regions have vastly different starting points. China, for example, experienced unprecedented growth over the last thirty years and so Chinese Millennials might naturally answer they will enjoy a higher standard of living than their parents (many of whom lived through tremendous hardship during the Great Chinese Famine and the Cultural Revolution).
Even in countries with much less historical turmoil and economic distress—such as the Nordic region—Millennials are also fairly optimistic, with 62 percent indicating they hold an overall rosy outlook. Sixty-five percent of Millennials on the African continent told us they felt strongly their quality of life would exceed that of their parents.
As real wages have stagnated over the last decades, and youth unemployment is at record levels, you might expect Millennials to hold a dismal view of their economic prospects. While pessimists exist, they are easily outnumbered by those who expect to be doing much better than their parents did in their lifetime.