How Black Americans Define Success

How Black Americans Define Success

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More than 60% of black adults in the United States say that being debt-free and having enough money to do what you want are the top indicators of financial success.

New York

Most black Americans say they feel at least somewhat successful, but still feel financial pressures regardless of income, according to a new survey released Thursday by the Pew Research Center.

The survey of more than 4,700 black Americans asked theirs views of what constitutes success – how they define it, how they see themselves in that context, and the concerns they have about achieving it.

“Most black Americans (66%) consider themselves to be at least somewhat successful,” Pew researchers wrote in their analysis.

They noted that a quarter (26%) of people surveyed characterized themselves as “extremely” or “very successful.” Those with higher incomes were more likely to fall into this category.

When asked what was essential to feeling successful, most respondents said they were able to provide for their family (82%); to be happy (80%); have enough time to do the things they want (65%); having a job or career they like (56%); owning their own home (52%) and using their talents and resources to help others (50%).

When asked to specifically define financial success, a majority chose “being debt-free” (67%) and having enough money to do what they want (65%) as “essential.” Just under half (49%) chose “own a home”.

More than two-fifths chose to pass financial assets to the next generation (44%); and having multiple income streams (43%).

Meanwhile, 35% chose “early retirement” and 22% chose “owning a business”.

In terms of gender, Pew noted, “Black women are more likely than black men to say that being debt-free, being able to transition financial assets, and being able to retire early are central to their personal definition of financial success.”

And there are differences based on income. “Black adults with lower levels of household income are more likely than those with middle or high incomes to say that being debt-free and owning a business is essential.”

What it takes to be successful: College degrees and mentors matter less than confidence

Respondents chose a number of factors that they believe make success possible. At the top of the list was self-confidence (79%) and financial stability (75%).

“Far fewer see personal relationships as having an important role in success,” the Pew researchers said.

A small majority (54%) said that having supportive family members is necessary, while a smaller share said that having connections (41%) or mentors (39%) was essential. Only 20% identified a college degree.

Most respondents (54%) said they worry almost every day about one or more of several financial concerns: paying bills (31%); the amount of debt they have (29%); ability to save enough for retirement (28%); ability to buy enough food (24%); ability to pay rent or mortgage (23%); and the cost of health care (22%).

And regardless of income, most black adults said they feel financial pressures.

For example, 64% of high-income respondents and 70% of low-income respondents said they felt pressure to provide for their families, while 50% of high-income respondents and 53% of low-income respondents low incomes said they feel pressure to own their home.

But when it comes to emergency savings, there were notable differences between income groups. Overall, 28% of respondents said they could not cover expenses for three months if they lost their main income. But low-income earners (41%) were more than five times more likely than high-income earners (7%) to say so. Less than a fifth of middle-income earners (18%) said the same.

A higher salary, of course, can make putting aside emergency savings much easier. In an analysis of black American incomes in July, Pew noted that only 6% of black U.S. adults earned $100,000 or more in 2021. But among those who said they would need $100,000 to living the life they want, 62% indicated they think they will reach that level of income in the future.

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