Economic Insecurity Affects Most Americans, Report Finds

For most Americans, economic insecurity seems to be the rule rather than the exception, a report from the Rockefeller Foundation finds.

Written by academics at Yale and Ohio State universities, the report, Standing on Shaky Ground: Americans' Experiences with Economic Insecurity (36 pages, PDF), details the ways in which economic insecurity affects the well-being of Americans. Drawing on research from the 2009 Survey of Economic Risk Perceptions and Insecurity, the study found that the majority of Americans appear to be extremely vulnerable to future economic shocks and that economic insecurity is widespread. By the spring of 2009, for example, 78 percent of Americans were quite worried about at least one risk to their overall economic security, while from March 2008 to September 2009, 93 percent of American households experienced at least one substantial economic shock.

A follow-up to the pioneering Economic Security Index (ESI) report of July 2010 (32 pages, PDF), the new report also found that economic insecurity has been on the rise for years and that the trend has not reversed significantly since 2009. Indeed, economic hardship is affecting a growing number of those in the middle class, not just individuals at the bottom of the economic ladder. The report also found that economic shocks often persist over time, tend to be clustered, and occur in multiple domains (employment, health care, family, wealth).

"This new report shows the extent to which American families have been rocked by economic shocks whose consequences include not just worry but also real economic hardship," said report co-author Jacob Hacker, Stanley B. Resor professor of political science at Yale. "This report dashes the notion that economic disruption is limited to lower-income families by revealing that many middle-class and even upper-middle-class families are unable to meet basic economic needs."