One Recession, Two Americas
The Defining Characteristics
Eight questions were used in the cluster analysis. The questions consisted of two types. Some were overall measures of how individuals fared during the recession, including whether or not the recession forced them to make “major” changes in their lives; whether their family income increased, decreased or stayed about the same; and whether their family’s overall financial condition is better or worse now than before the recession. Other questions measured whether people personally suffered a spell of unemployment during the recession, had trouble paying their rent or mortgage, had problems getting or paying for medical care, had to borrow money from family or friends to pay bills, or withdrew money from savings or retirement accounts to pay expenses. The bullet points below summarizes the key differences between the two cluster groups on these core questions.
Holding their Own (45% of all adults)
- No members of this group say the recession has caused them to make “major” changes in the way they live. About half (51%) say the recession changed the way they lived in “minor” ways, while 48% did not change the way they lived at all.
- No member of this group reports problems paying the rent or mortgage.
- None had to borrow money from friends or family to pay bills.
- No one in this group reports problems finding or paying for medical care.
- Less than 1% were unemployed at some point during the recession.
- Only about one-in-seven (14%) say their family income declined during recession.
- About two-in-ten (19%) say they withdrew money from savings, retirement to pay bills.
- About three-in-ten (29%) say their overall household finances are worse now than before the recession.
Lost Ground (55% of all adults)
- More than four-in-ten (44%) say the recession has brought “major” changes in the way they live, and 39% said it has caused them to make “minor” adjustments to their lifestyle. An additional 17% made no recession-related changes.
- More than a third (35%) had trouble paying rent or mortgage.
- 42% had to borrow money from friends or family members.
- 48% had trouble finding or paying for medical care.
- 43% were unemployed at some point during recession.
- Nearly half (48%) say their family income declined.
- 60% withdrew money from savings or retirement funds.
- Nearly two-thirds (64%) say household finances are worse now than before the recession.
About the Survey
Results for this survey are based on telephone interviews conducted with a nationally representative sample of 2,967 people ages 18 and older living in the continental United States. A combination of landline and cellular random digit dial (RDD) samples was used to represent all adults in the continental United States who have access to either a landline or cellular telephone. A total of 1,893 interviews were completed with respondents contacted by landline telephone and 1,074 with those contacted on their cell phone. The data are weighted to produce a final sample that is representative of the general population of adults in the continental United States.
- Interviews conducted May 11-31, 2010
- 2,967 interviews, including 1,761 respondents in the group that Lost Ground and 1,184 who Held their Own.
- Margin of sampling error is plus or minus 2.2 percentage points for results based on the total sample at the 95% confidence level, 3.3 points for the group that Lost Ground and 4.0 points for those who Held their Own.
- Survey interviews were conducted under the direction of Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish.