Growing up as a Black teen, John Harris III says he wasn't always sure about what he wanted to do with his life. But the 23-year-old, now part of the first generation of college students who saw the nation's first Black president elected, points to a newfound sense of purpose for him and other Black graduates. A new analysis by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows many in the Black and Hispanic communities share Harris' optimism.

America's minorities are now far more optimistic about their economic future than Whites and by the widest margin since at least 1987. "We feel more independent," said Harris, a recent graduate of historically Black Howard University, who now works to reduce homelessness. "We feel like we're worth more, because we see it every day on the TV, hear it on the radio and are beginning to see it more in our communities." After years of economic attitudes among Whites, Blacks and Hispanics following similar patterns, Whites' confidence in their economic future has plummeted in the last decade, according to the analysis.

Blacks and Hispanics, meanwhile, have sustained high levels of optimism despite being hit hard in the recent recession. The findings come as President Barack Obama seeks to promote a broader message of economic opportunity amid a rising gap between rich and poor. The AP reported this week that 4 out of 5 U.S. adults have struggled with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least part of their lives, with White pessimism about their economic future at a 25-year high. More than 40 percent of the poor are White.