A new NBC News poll released ahead of President Biden’s State of the Union address finds that nearly three out of four adults believe the nation is headed in the wrong direction. Furthermore, two out of three say their family’s income is falling behind the cost of living.

Despite a positive economic growth reading to close out 2022, Americans are understandably worried about the future of the nation. 

Rising household debt, rising costs, and rising numbers of corporate layoffs are fueling pessimism that individuals’ economic positions will grow worse in the near future. 

Economic headwinds

President Biden said last week that he has “never been more optimistic about America’s future than I am today” but he is increasingly alone in his view. 


Just 23% of Americans say that the country is on the right track, a proportion that is virtually unchanged from just after the 2022 election. 

The proportion of adults who view the country as on the right track has not cracked 40% at any time during President Biden’s presidency compared to both of his recent predecessors.

Consistently, Americans tend to think the country is headed in the right direction soon after a new president takes office. After his policies are enacted, their views change. The plummeting view of the country under President Biden compared to Obama and Trump is all the more telling.  

Presidents may want to set a positive tone to inspire Americans, but given households’ economic realities, statements (tweets) like Biden’s come across as out of touch. 

Households are struggling with rising costs from inflation and interest rates:

  • Gas prices are climbing again, jumping 41 cents in the past month and rising more than 9% since the end of last year.
  • Inflation is up 6.5% but groceries are up nearly 12% from a year prior.
  • Homes using heating oil are projected to spend 27% more this winter ($2,354) than last winter, while propane users will see their costs rise 5% to $1,668.
  • Delinquencies on auto loans are climbing
  • Delinquencies are up to levels not seen in decades on credit cards and unsecured personal loans
  • A third (32%) of Americans paid a bill late in the past six months (as of October 2022) most because they did not have enough money to cover the costs.

Also, a positive GDP reading for Q4 of 2022 doesn’t outweigh the concerns over layoffs spreading from the tech industry to other sectors. 

In addition, high interest rates price new homebuyers out of the market, keep current homeowners who want to sell on ice, and push borrowing costs higher for consumers with various types of debt from auto loans to credit cards.

The Financial State of Black Households

During February, Americans reflect on the hardships blacks have endured and the progress they have made in America. Black History Month affords an opportunity to focus on whether more blacks are experiencing economic mobility.

Black households are undoubtedly resilient but are not in the same economic positions as their racial counterparts. 

2021 data from the New York Federal Reserve Bank finds that black households lag behind other races on a number of measures. When asked, 88% of Asian adults, 81% of white adults, and 71% of Hispanic adults said they are doing okay financially compared with 68% of black adults.

A plurality of black and Hispanic adults had family incomes below $25,000. In comparison, over half of Asian adults and over a third of white adults had incomes above $100,000. 

In addition, 40% of black adults had, or were close to having, difficulty paying bills compared to a third of Hispanics, 19% of White adults, and just 11% of Asian adults.

Despite historical and contemporary obstacles, blacks are remarkably optimistic

In a recent national Right Track/Wrong Track poll, a plurality (46%) of blacks said the country is on the right track, which tracks closely with 49% of Democrats. That may not be a majority, but it is almost double the proportion of Hispanics (27%) who hold that view and over double the proportion of white Americans (19%) who view the country as moving in the right direction. 

Digging deeper into the direction of the national economy, 59% of Americans overall said the economy is getting worse compared to 20% who said it’s improving. Blacks hold the best view of the economy at 31% who think it’s getting better compared to 35% who see it worsening. The other racial groups express far more negative views. 

Concerning individual households, about half of blacks are likely to say nothing has changed for them financially. Whereas, half (more or less) of White, Hispanic, and other races say their family finances worsened.

Blacks are the only racial group to give President Biden a pass on his job approval rating.

Bottom Line

President Biden increasingly sounds out of touch with the everyday economic realities of Americans. Blacks are remarkably optimistic people, but eventually, their optimism may run out as well.

Stay tuned for more content on blacks in America throughout the month of February.