How far do people around the globe think they and others like them have come, compared with 50 years ago? Pew Research Center put that question to nearly 43,000 people in 38 countries around the globe this past spring.
At a country level, some of the most positive assessments of progress over the past 50 years are found in Vietnam (88% say life is better today), India (69%) and South Korea (68%) – all societies that have seen dramatic economic transformations since the late 1960s, not to mention the end of armed conflict in the case of Vietnam. A majority in Turkey (65% better) also share a sense of progress over the past five decades. In some of the more developed countries, publics also report that life is better today, including 65% in Japan and Germany, and 64% in the Netherlands and Sweden.
But not everyone is convinced that life today is an improvement over the past. Americans are split on this issue: 41% say life is worse while 37% say better. Meanwhile, half or more in countries ranging from Italy (50%) and Greece (53%) to Nigeria (54%) and Kenya (53%) to Venezuela (72%) and Mexico (68%) say life is worse today.
In more than half the countries polled, people with more education say that, for people like them, life is better than it was a half-century ago. The educational divide on whether life is better is greatest in Poland and Peru (both 19 percentage points). But it is also apparent in many European and Asian nations, as well as the U.S.