Millennials When it comes to thefuture of the world, 79 percent of young people in lower- andmiddle-income countries are optimistic, while just half of those inhigher-income countries say they are. Photo:Shutterstock)

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It sounds almost counter-intuitive, considering headlines oneverything from student loan debt to low-paying jobs, but young people across theworld—particularly those in lower- and middle-income countries—areactually more optimistic than their elders.

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So says the Goalkeepers Global Youth Poll from the Bill& Melinda Gates Foundation and Ipsos Public Affairs. The poll,which asked adults and young people in 15 countries about theiroutlook on their personal lives, challenges for their communities,and the direction of their countries, chose countries in eachincome range based on World Bank rankings.

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Related: Automation, gig work and other reasons millennialsfear the future

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Higher-income countries chosen for the poll were Australia,France, Germany, Great Britain, Sweden, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia,while lower- and middle-income countries were Brazil, China, India,Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria and Russia.

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Young people (ages 12–24) in the latter group of countries arethe most optimistic group across all measures, says the report, andare not only more likely to believe they can affect the way theircountries are governed but also (at 63 percent) that theirgeneration will have a more positive impact on the world than theirparents' generation. Interestingly, only 39 percent of young peoplein higher-income countries agree with that last statement, althoughin both groups of countries young people were more likely to agreethan their elders.

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When it comes to the future of the world, 79 percent of youngpeople in lower- and middle-income countries are optimistic, whilejust half of those in higher-income countries say they are.

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The report also polled each age group on which of the UNSustainable Development Goals (GlobalGoals) their leaders should focus on. They ranked: endingpoverty (33 percent), improving education (31 percent), andaccessing jobs (27 percent).

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But priorities change depending on country group, with lower-and middle-income countries putting improving education (41percent), ending poverty (37 percent) and accessing jobs (32percent) at the top of their list. Higher-income countries, on theother hand, rank ending poverty (29 percent), addressing climatechange (24 percent), improving education (21 percent) and endingconflicts (21 percent) at the top.

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And in the age of #MeToo, it's probably not surprising thatacross lower-, middle- and high-income groups of countries, womenare more likely than men to agree with the statement: “Life isbetter for men and boys than women and girls.” The difference ismore pronounced, the report points out, in higher-income countries,where 49 percent of women agreed, compared with 37 percent of men.In lower- and medium-income countries, 45 percent of women agreed,compared with 43 percent of men.

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While the “stunning progress” in fighting poverty and disease“is being felt in in lower- and middle-income countries,” and since2000, the number of people living in extreme poverty has declinedby more than 1 billion, the report adds that “rapid populationgrowth in the poorest countries, particularly in sub-SaharanAfrica, is putting future progress at risk.” A critical driver ofproductivity and innovation, it adds will be the investment inyoung people, especially in their health and education.

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Read more about the next generations'outlook:

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Marlene Satter

Marlene Y. Satter has worked in and written about the financial industry for decades.