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Most Black Americans say they feel successful, survey finds

More than 60% of Black adults in the United States say being debt free and having enough money to do what you want are top indicators of financial success. (Photo: Getty Images)

New York (CNN) — A majority of Black Americans say they feel at least somewhat successful but nevertheless 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 sought their views on what constitutes success — how they define it, how they view themselves in that context and the concerns they have in achieving it.

“Most Black Americans (66%) consider themselves 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 the highest incomes were most likely to fall in this category.

When asked what was essential to feel successful, a majority of respondents said being able to provide for their family (82%); being happy (80%); having enough time to do things they want (65%); having a job or career they enjoy (56%); owning their own home (52%) and using their talents and resources to help others (50%).

Being debt-free is seen as a top marker of financial success

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

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

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

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

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

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

Survey respondents selected a number of factors that in their view make success possible. Top of the list was self-confidence (79%) and financial stability (75%).

“Far fewer see personal relationships having a significant role in success,” Pew researchers said.

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

Pressures on the road to success

A majority of respondents (54%) said they worry on a nearly daily basis about one or more of several financial concerns: paying their bills (31%); the amount of debt they have (29%); being able to save enough for retirement (28%); being able to buy enough food (24%); being able to pay the rent or mortgage (23%); and the cost of health care (22%).

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

For instance, 64% of upper-income respondents and 70% of low-income ones said they felt pressures to provide for their families, while 50% of those with high incomes and 53% of those with low income said they feel pressure to own their own 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 earners (41%) were more than five times as likely as those with high incomes (7%) to say so. Less than a fifth of middle income earners (18%) said the same.

A higher paycheck, of course, can make it much easier to set aside emergency savings. In an analysis of Black Americans’ income in July, Pew noted that only 6% of Black adults in the US made $100,000 or more in 2021. But among those who said they would need $100,000 to live the life they want, 62% indicated they think they will reach that income level in the future.

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