Where Are Young People Most Optimistic? In Poorer Nations.

Md. Rafaiat Ullah, 24, a university student in Chittagong, Bangladesh, said he thought he would be in a better financial position than his parents because of education. “My parents didn’t get a chance to be educated that much,” he said. “But even though they didn’t, they did educate me. Education creates opportunity.”

In developing countries, there is an increasing priority on education as a way to move up; in the United States, universal education has existed longer and higher education has become a dividing line, said Dr. Robert Blum, principal investigator of the Global Early Adolescent Study at Johns Hopkins.

“In low- and middle-income countries,” he said, “it’s seen as: ‘What’s my ticket to doing better? I don’t have many tickets. I don’t have a family with wealth, my social capital is really limited. So my ticket is going to be education if I have anything at all.’”

In her research, Professor Swartz has found that young people in poor countries often draw optimism from religious faith as well as strong family and community bonds.

“When people write about the global South and young people living in poverty, they frequently discount that kind of faith in a higher being, and faith that older siblings are paving the way for them,” she said.

Throughout the world, the dream of a better life for the next generation persists, even if it’s increasingly out of reach in certain places.

“I want to be an optimist and think that some day the world will open its eyes and let everyone be whatever they want to be, helping to have better access to school and work opportunities,” said Angela Bahamonde Ahijado, 24, from Cetina, Spain. “That is what I would ask for my daughter, and I know that my parents in their day asked for it for me.”

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