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Financial Anxiety Amid Prosperity

You’ve probably heard that the U.S. economy is humming along at a healthy pace. Stock indices are breaching record highs, unemployment statistics are near record lows, and the economy is growing at nearly a 3% annualized pace.

So American workers should be happy with their newfound prosperity, right?

The problem is not the economy, per se, but the unequal distribution of its recent largesse. A recent Gallup poll found that a remarkable 40% of Americans say that amid one of the greatest—and now one of the longest—economic booms in U.S. history, they are either running into debt or barely making ends meet. Only 25% of employed households report that they are saving enough for retirement; 18% admit that they have saved nothing at all.

Gallup’s survey is conducted each April, and the news this year is not all bad. The percentage of Americans rating the economy “only fair” or “poor” has dropped significantly since the 2016 version of the survey. Digging deeper into the data, the Gallup researchers found that 49% of respondents have at least one immediate worry—such as, for example, paying their rent or mortgage, or being able to make minimum payments on their credit cards. Another 14% have no immediate financial concerns, but worry about whether they will be able to pay for normal healthcare or afford the medical costs due to a major illness or accident.

How would this play out in the next electoral cycle? The researchers note that most of the financially anxious people report voting primarily Democratic, while those who have few worries are largely Republican voters. But people who are worried about healthcare costs are split evenly down the middle, which means healthcare issues will likely be front and center in next year’s elections.

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