Economic Security at Risk

Source: Jacob S. Hacker, Gregory A. Huber, Philipp Rehm, Mark Schlesinger, Rob Valletta, July 2010

The Economic Security Index (ESI), sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation, measures the share of Americans who experience at least a 25% drop in their available family income whether due to a decline in income or a spike in medical spending or a combination of the two, and who lack an adequate financial safety net to catch them when they fall. A higher ESI therefore indicates greater insecurity, much as a rising unemployment rate signals a faltering economy.

Data are available for the ESI from 1985 through 2007, with projections for the most recent years (a less complete form of the index is available back to the late 1960s).

The ESI looks at actual economic losses, not at who fears or is vulnerable to them. The threat of such losses is real and growing for all Americans.

According to ESI:
– Financial insecurity has increased.
In 1985, 12.2 percent of Americans experienced a major economic loss sufficient to classify them as insecure in the ESI. During the recession of the early 2000s, this had risen to 17 percent. In 2007, before the current downturn, the picture had improved (13.7 percent), but measured insecurity remained higher than in the 1980s. Because the economic downturn after 2007 was substantial, we project the ESI forward based on the 1985-2007 experience. These projections suggest that in 2009, the level of economic insecurity experienced by Americans was greater than at any time over the past quarter century, with approximately one in five Americans (20.4 percent) experiencing a decline in available household income of 25 percent or greater.

– The extent of economic security varies substantially across the population but has risen for virtually all groups.
Economic Insecurity: The Long View
Source: Michael Powell, New York Times Economix Blog, July 23, 2010

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