Economic Opportunity Is Becoming Increasingly Elusive for Many Americans

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The first McKinsey American Opportunity Survey focuses on Americans’ perceptions of economic opportunity, the hurdles they confront, and the route ahead to create a more inclusive economy.

Even as parts of the U.S. begin the long road to recovery from the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, our goal was for Americans to understand their current economic standing, their views on financial opportunity, and the barriers that stand in their way of a more diverse and prosperous future.

Surveying 25,000 Americans in the spring of 2021, we teamed up with the market-research and opinion-polling firm Ipsos to learn about their perspectives on the current and future condition of the US economy, their hopes for the future, and the problems they confront.


As a result, we wanted to construct a baseline of data to better understand how people’s access to services and characteristics like their identity, education, and amount of caring responsibilities affect outcomes and perceptions. According to the sidebar “About the survey,” we drew timely insights across demographic categories and geographic regions because of the breadth and depth of our sample. Because of how quickly the COVID-19 virus spread and how the economy changed, the results of our first poll are only a snapshot in time, but they provide a good baseline for understanding how the economy has affected a large segment of the population in the United States.

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What we discovered was harrowing, to say the least. Survey respondents said their financial status had deteriorated over the past year, and only half of those polled had enough savings to last more than two months if they lost their jobs. Many groups’ economic well-being has been adversely affected by the epidemic, which has exacerbated inequities that were already present before the crisis. Among the hurdles to economic opportunity and inclusion highlighted by Americans were inadequate access to health insurance, physical and mental healthcare, and cheap childcare. There was also a widespread belief that being gay or lesbian was a barrier to getting a job or receiving enough compensation for one’s work.

Read More: The Major United States Citizens Are Worried About the Country’s Future and Politically ‘Burned Out’

Our survey found some cause for optimism, despite the difficulties. Respondents who are first- or second-generation immigrants were among the most upbeat when it came to finding work.1 Despite the fact that they were more likely to report obstacles to opportunity, people of color and Hispanic/Latino2 were also among the most optimistic respondents.

economic oppurtunity

The ten ideas outlined in this article, together with others, provide a snapshot of how Americans will view economic opportunities in the spring of 2021. (Exhibit 1). A discussion on economic opportunity and inclusion among governmental, corporate, and non-profit sector leaders could benefit from our findings. For this purpose, this article introduces the first McKinsey Economic Opportunity Index, which will be updated on an ongoing basis to provide a more comprehensive assessment of economic opportunity and inclusion trends as they evolve.

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