An onlooker watches share prices on a digital broadcast on the facade of the Bombay Stock Exchange INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP/Getty Images

Hope Locally, Hate Globally

In survey after survey, in rich and poor countries alike, people report feeling satisfied with their family lives, happy with the neighborhoods they live in, optimistic about their personal futures – and downright gloomy about their countries and the world. Why?

SANTIAGO – In Lake Wobegon, Garrison Keillor’s fictional American town, all the children are above average. And life imitates art, not only in America – and not only for the young. In survey after survey, in rich and poor countries alike, people report feeling satisfied with their family lives, happy with the neighborhoods they live in, and optimistic about their personal futures. The same people tell pollsters that their countries and the world are going to hell in a handbasket.

So adults, apparently, also lead lives that are always above average.

Consider some examples. According to the Eurobarometer poll, around 60% of people predict that their job situation will remain the same, while 20% expect their situation to improve. Yet most people systematically expect the economic situation in their home country to deteriorate or remain the same. Expectations about individual outcomes move very little over time, while expectations about national economic performance worsen with recessions and improve with booms, just as you might expect.

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