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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Americans' native optimism is hard to squelch. Even after more than a year of a brutal pandemic — with all its attendant ravages on health, employment, and life at home — we overall retain a positive economic sentiment, according to a major new survey from McKinsey and Ipsos, provided first to Axios.

Yes, but: Economic optimism isn't evenly distributed. Men are broadly optimistic, women aren't. Parents see a brighter future than the childless. And naturally the rich have a sunnier outlook than the poor.

  • By far the biggest obstacle between Americans and economic optimism is their lack of access to health care and health insurance.

Women bore the brunt of the extra childcare burden during the pandemic, and also the brunt of the job losses. Both of those have significantly harmed their economic prospects.

  • Among moms who have stopped looking for work during the pandemic, 14% said they did so in order to look after their family. For dads, the equivalent number is a mere 3%.
  • Just 43% of moms see childcare as affordable, compared to 64% of dads.

By the numbers: Americans in general, and American women in particular, still see real hardship. Only 26% of women think the pay that most people receive allows for a good quality of life, for instance.

  • 62% of workers in the gig economy would prefer to have permanent employment.
  • 41% of Hispanic respondents agreed with the statement that “I have had to cut back spending on food or delay medical care over the past 12 months for financial reasons.” For white Americans, the equivalent number is 27%.

What they're saying: "Rural Americans are at risk of being left behind," notes the report. They are much less willing than their urban counterparts to relocate or to switch industries, and most have no plans to pursue future training or new credentials.

The bottom line: The pandemic decimated jobs for women and people of color, while creating massive gains for urban homeowners and the rich. The biggest opportunities in America are generally seen by those who have suffered the smallest losses.

Go deeper

Study: Hispanic women saw uptick in alcohol consumption in 2020

Expand chart
Data: National Survey on Drug Use and Health; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios Visuals

Hispanic women had one of the highest increases in alcohol consumption the last year, likely as a response to increased stress and caregiving responsibilities from the pandemic, per a study on drinking habits.

What’s happening: The data contrasts with a historical trend in which Latinas especially report more alcohol abstinence than white non-Hispanics, according to data from the National Institutes of Health.

Biden: "No question" Delta variant is to blame for poor jobs report

President Joe Biden speaking at the White House on Sept. 2. Photo: Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images

There is "no question" that the Delta variant is to blame for the disappointing August jobs report, President Biden said in remarks on Friday, a fact that he argued underscores the importance of continuing to vaccinate Americans and passing his economic agenda.

Why it matters: The U.S. economy added only 235,000 jobs last month, significantly lower than what economists expected in part because of the surge in new coronavirus cases driven by the Delta variant.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Updated Sep 3, 2021 - Economy & Business

U.S. added 235,000 jobs in August, a massive slowdown

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

The U.S. economy added a meager 235,000 jobs in August, while the unemployment rate fell from 5.4% to 5.2%, the government said Friday.

Why it matters: It's the first jobs report to factor in the extent of the COVID-19 surge driven by the Delta variant — showing a massive slowdown in the recovery after July's blockbuster jobs report. Economists had expected 725,000 jobs to be added.