By Freddie Allen
Members of the Black middle class are more optimistic about their finances than they were a year ago, according to a recent study by the research arm of Prudential Financial Inc.
Prudential surveyed more than 1,100 Blacks on a wide range of financial topics in March. The survey participants ranged in ages between 25 and 70, with a household income of $25,000 or more with “some involvement in household financial decisions.” Fifty-one percent were married and 41 percent had 1-2 children. Thirty-five percent had some college experience, while 33 percent finished high school or less. “The study shows increasing economic power and an emerging middle class within the community,” Charles Lowrey, Prudential’s chief operating officer, U.S. Businesses said in a press release.
“Approximately 4 in 10 households surveyed have annual incomes of at least $75,000, and nearly a quarter earn $100,000 or more. Half of African Americans surveyed said they feel better off financially than a year ago, while only 19 percent say they feel worse.”
The study also reported that nearly two-thirds of Blacks surveyed “feel better off financially than their parents,” but economic optimism is often held in the eye of the beholder. “How you feel about your situation doesn’t say much, except that you feel good about it,” said Steven Pitts, a labor economist at the University of California at Berkeley.
Still, some economists point to the recovery of the housing market for the improved outlook, while others say that the positive financial outlook permeating the Black middle class has more to do with Black family living in the White House.
“On one hand, we expect the best; on the other hand, we’re prepared for the worst,” said Julianne Malveaux, an economist and immediate past president of Bennett College for Women. “That’s how African Americans proceed with their finances; the better off you are the more likely you are to feel like everything is going to be okay, at the same time you know it may not be.”