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Melvin Stephens

Finances and Frustration: Families’ Circumstances after the Great Recession

Publication Abstract

Download PDF versionChiteji, Ngina, and Sheldon H. Danziger. 2012. "Finances and Frustration: Families’ Circumstances after the Great Recession." PSC Research Report No. 12-754. January 2012.

New data from the Michigan Recession and Recovery Study provide a careful look at families' financial circumstances. These data reveal that, in addition to having low levels of savings, many families are struggling to pay their debts--from credit card debt to simpler obligations tied to basic needs, like utility bills, medical bills, and overdue rent. Wade (2011) has suggested that a mountain of household debt is weighing down the US economy. Our data shed light on this assertion. They also suggest a secondary reason that many US citizens are stressed and frustrated at the way that the US economy is operating, to add to the observations about wealth and income inequality that scholars writing about the Occupy Wall Street movement have focused on. What is most interesting about our findings is that it is unclear that conditions will improve in the near future. As the US social safety net splinters, given some states' efforts to reduce the number of weeks that individuals may receive unemployment insurance and the uncertainty about whether (and for how long) the federal government will renew its own commitment to assisting the unemployed, one wonders if families are likely to find themselves under further strain in the future.

Country of focus: United States of America.

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