Americans are freakishly optimistic

A recent Pew Research Center report shows that Americans really do believe in individualism and freewill. Only 36 percent of Americans polled said that they thought their economic fortunes were determined by forces beyond their control. Compare this number to the over 70 percent of Germans who believe their financial fates are beyond their personal control. The irony, writes Catherine Rampell in the New York Times, is that Americans actually have far less control over their economic destinies than their European counterparts. She explains:

These findings are particularly interesting when juxtaposed with a separate report from the Pew Economic Mobility project. That report, which examined economic and social mobility in 10 Western countries, found that Americans actually appear to have less control over their success in life than their counterparts do.

In particular, the educational attainment of a person's parents - a factor usually determined before that person's birth - seems to matter more for mobility in the United States.

"There is a stronger link between parental education and children's economic, educational and socio-emotional outcomes than in any other country investigated," the report says.