The Europeans Are Gloomy, Too

The U.S. isn’t the only major economy in which people regard the last 10 years as a lost decade. A Financial Times/Harris Poll, fielded last month, finds similar sentiment in Western Europe.

Indeed, respondents in several major countries there were even less likely than those in the U.S. to regard the ’00s as having endowed them with a higher standard of living. In the U.S., 16 percent of respondents said their standard of living is “significantly” better than it was 10 years ago, and another 28 percent said it’s “somewhat” better. In France, by contrast, just 5 percent said their living standard is now significantly better (with 31 percent saying it’s “somewhat” better). The figures were even worse in Italy (3 percent “significantly,” 26 percent “somewhat”), and no great shakes in Great Britain (12 percent “significantly,” 27 percent “somewhat”). Respondents were cheerier in Spain (17 percent “significantly,” 26 percent “somewhat”) and Germany (15 percent “significantly,” 25 percent “somewhat”).

Optimism about one’s standard of living in the decade ahead is also spotty in Europe. Respondents in France were particularly glum, with barely one in five believing their family’s standard of living will become either “significantly better” (2 percent) or “somewhat better” (19 percent) during the new decade. Spanish respondents were the most upbeat of the poll’s Europeans, with 7 percent thinking their family’s standard of living will get “significantly better” and 28 percent expecting it to get “somewhat better” during the next 10 years.

American respondents were more likely than their European counterparts to claim they’ve reined in their expenditures. Twenty-nine percent in the U.S. said they’re “spending less money than you did 10 years ago,” vs. 24 percent of the Germans, 23 percent of the French, 21 percent of the British and 19 percent of the Italians and the Spanish.