Date of this Version
Nebraska Rural Poll, Research Report (January 2023) 22-3, 24 pages
Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Also available at http://ruralpoll.unl.edu/pdf/22wellbeing.pdf
This year, rural Nebraskans are more pessimistic about their current situation than they’ve been in the past nine years. The proportion believing they are worse off than they were five years ago was 21 percent, up from the 11 percent reported last year. This is the highest level since 2013, when 26 percent believed they were worse off. This increase in pessimism did not translate into a decrease in optimism, however. This year, one-half of rural Nebraskans believe they are better off compared to five years ago, similar to 52 percent last year. The corresponding change occurred in a decrease in the proportion believing they about the same as they were five years ago.
This trend continued when looking to the future. Rural Nebraskans’ optimism about the future has declined slightly in the past three years. The proportion saying they will be better off ten years from now has always been greater than the proportion saying they will be worse off ten years from now. In fact, the gap between the two gradually widened between 2013 and 2019. However, that gap has slightly narrowed in the past three years.
The past three years have also seen an increase in feelings of powerlessness by rural Nebraskans. The past three years have been a period of steady decline in the proportions who either strongly disagree or disagree that people are powerless to control their own lives. The proportion of rural Nebraskans that either strongly agree or agree with the statement has steadily increased from 2019 to this year.
Despite these trends, certain groups are more likely to be optimistic about their current situation as well as the future. Younger persons are more likely than older persons to believe they are better off compared to five years ago and will be better off ten years from now. Persons with higher household incomes and education levels are also most likely to be optimistic.
Education also is related to feelings of powerlessness. Persons with lower education levels are more likely than persons with more education to believe that people are powerless to control their own lives.
Some items that can impact well-being saw decreases in the level of satisfaction this year as compared to last year: their financial security during retirement, their current income level, their community, and their spare time.
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