Our nation’s Declaration of Independence begins with the famous statement that “all men … are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

But according to the latest Gallup World Happiness Report, Americans’ success in the “pursuit of happiness” is diminishing.

For the first time since the annual report was first compiled in 2012, the United States is not among the top 20 happiest countries in the world.

In this latest 2024 report, the United States ranks 23 in the world, down from No. 15 in 2023.

A large factor influencing the drop in happiness in the United States is particularly bad results among young Americans. For those age 30 and below, the United States ranks 62 in the world. This compared to those age 60 and above, for whom the United States ranks No. 10.

What’s going on with our youth?

A recent Wall Street Journal article about so-called Gen Z, those born between 1997 and 2012, identifies members of Gen Z who are 18 and up as “America’s Most Disillusioned Voters.”

The headline continues, “Young adults are now more skeptical of government and pessimistic about the future than any other living generation before them.”

Per Wall Street Journal polling reported in the article, “More than three-quarters of voters under 30 think the country is moving in the wrong direction—a greater share than any other age group. Nearly one-third of voters under 30 have an unfavorable view of both [Joe] Biden and [Donald] Trump, a higher number than all older voters. Sixty-three percent of young voters think neither party adequately represents them.”

In the 18-25 age group, 28% say they have “hardly any confidence” in the Supreme Court, 34% in Congress, 37% in the executive branch, and 52% in the press.

A young USA Today columnist named Sara Pequeno shared her views about what’s going on and why.

The explanations she ticks off are a generation coming of age during the COVID-19 pandemic, an explosion of the worst inflation in years, and, she adds, the impact of the Supreme Court overturning of Roe v. Wade, which she calls “the loss of a right that our parents had—the right to an abortion nationwide.”

She sites Gallup showing that 89% of those 18-29 years old support legal abortion under any or certain circumstances.

We’re talking here about our nation’s future, and this dismal picture should trouble us all.

Let me suggest a different perspective on this problem.

This youngest generation is also coming of age during a time of unprecedented expansion of government, meaning an unprecedented incursion into the individual freedom of every American.

The federal government is now taking one-quarter of the American economy.

Federal debt, equal to our entire gross domestic product, is projected by the Congressional Budget Office to keep growing. This is all on the shoulders of these young Americans.

Regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new study published by the Committee to Unleash Prosperity, authored by scholars from the Hoover Institution, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Chicago, and the Committee to Unleash Prosperity, shows the costs of the shutdowns in the way of added deaths, massive economic costs, and damage caused by school shutdowns overwhelm any benefits that were gained.

Regarding abortion, we must note that these young Americans are growing up in an environment of the collapse of the American family, traditional marriage, and birth rates.

Let’s be aware, as we enter the season of Easter for Christians and Passover for Jews, that the growth of government tracks the diminishing of faith.

To go back to the Declaration of Independence, the rights the Founders noted were sourced in our Creator. The Founders who signed the declaration did so “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.”

This was meant to be a free nation under God. As we destroy these conditions, we are losing our young people.


The Daily Signal publishes a variety of perspectives. Nothing written here is to be construed as representing the views of The Heritage Foundation.