New study finds African-Americans are overwhelmingly satisfied with their lives

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Happy African-Americans

Happy African-Americans. © spotmatikphoto - Fotolia.com

A study released on Tuesday has found that 86 percent of African-Americans are overwhelmingly satisfied with their lives. Sixty percent believe they will eventually achieve the American dream of homeownership and financial security, according to a report by NPR.

Sixteen percent of African-Americans believe they will never achieve this goal, while twenty-two percent said they already had.

The poll findings released by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health are based on a survey of 1,081 people, a sample constructed to mimic the sociological breakdown of blacks across the country.

Doing well, with a few major fears

Asked a wide array of questions about economic status, health care access, and overall quality of life, respondents painted a positive picture of the black experience. Fifty-three percent of those polled said their lives have steadily improved over the years.

Crime was listed by a majority of respondents as their primary concern, but healthcare access and job security remained pressing issues. Despite the fact that most blacks reported having better access to quality healthcare than ever before, with 47 percent reporting to be “very satisfied” with their options, in 2011 one in five African-Americans lacked health insurance according to government statistics.

Many were found to be concerned that a job loss, or a health emergency resulting in a large medical bill, could result in a significant personal setback.

Black women: Not seeking long term relationships

In the area of love and relationships, more black men than black women reported difficulty in finding mates. Forty-three percent of black men said they were looking for a significant other, but only 25 percent of women were seeking the same.

Two-thirds of single African-Americans between 18 and 45 said they were not looking for a longterm relationship at all. (Marriage was not a subject of the poll, only longterm relationships.)

“African-American women appear to have more security than men, and so women [might] see less men who bring financial security to the table,” said Harvard University professor of public health Robert Blendon, a co-director of the study.

He also speculated to NPR that, based on studies showing that black women take the earning power of potential mates into higher consideration than other women, their higher educational attainment compared to black men overall renders them less interested in partnering.

The economics of black happiness

Economic stability strongly determined how African-Americans rated many other factors in their lives due to a stark contrast in blacks’ self-assesment of their assets. Study authors noted a 50-50 split between blacks describing themselves as being in “good” or “excellent” financial shape, versus those feeling as though they are “not good” financially or “poor.”

Another interesting split? About half reported living in all-black areas at 47 percent. Fifty-one percent live in areas with just a few blacks.

An oddity of the poll revealed that African-Americans, regardless of their level of financial well-being or places of residence, find their local entertainment options unsatisfying. Movie theaters and nightclubs in their locales were described as being just not up to snuff, garnering worse ratings than schools or police departments even for those in low-income neighborhoods.

What was not surprising was the revelation that most African-Americans consider religion to be important to their lives. Thirty-three percent said it is the most important thing in their lives, while 60 percent said it is very important or somewhat important.

Happiness has many factors, not just economic

Only 36 percent of blacks said they had encountered negative social experiences because of their race, such as receiving sub-par service in stores or being treated as though they were less intelligent, in the past year.

This study is a follow-up of a similar poll of African-Americans conducted by Harvard in 2002. In the previous study, 90 percent of blacks responded that they were satisfied with their lives compared with 86 percent today.

Happiness levels are not easily correlated to self-perceived financial status for blacks, study authors note.

“People view their lives in very complex ways; it’s not just one-dimensional,” Blendon told NPR.

Follow Alexis Garrett Stodghill on Twitter @lexisb.