Poster Paper: Report on the Economic Well-Being of US Households in 2015

Friday, November 4, 2016
Columbia Ballroom (Washington Hilton)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Jeff Larrimore, Alexandra Marie Brown and Anna Tranfaglia, Federal Reserve Board

As the U.S. economy recovers from the Great Recession, a number of questions remain regarding the inclusivity of the recovery as well as the toll that the recession took on families balance sheets. In order to better understand the financial well-being of lower income families, in the fall of 2013, the Federal Reserve Board began conducting a new survey, the Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking (SHED), which monitors the economic circumstances of U.S. families and identifies risks to their financial stability. This poster outlines the results of the latest SHED survey, with a particular emphasis on individuals’ preparedness for a future financial shocks as well as the trajectory of well-being over the three-years of the survey.  It also highlights the extent to which this new data resource, which is now publically available for researchers, can be used to better understand the financial situations of U.S. families.

Overall, the results demonstrate mild improvements in the overall well-being of adults as the economy recovers from the Great Recession. However, a number of adults still indicate that they are experiencing financial challenges, and nearly half are not prepared to handle even a modest $400 emergency expense.  This lack of preparedness for modest emergencies exacerbates the financial challenges faced by families when emergencies do occur.  For example, among respondents who experienced a major out of pocket medical expense in the past year a sizeable minority report that they currently owe debt from that expense.  Additionally, over one-quarter of adults indicate that they skipped some form of medical treatment in the past year due to an inability to pay.  When considering the characteristics of individuals who are ill-prepared for such emergencies, racial and ethnic minorities and those from disadvantaged family backgrounds – including those whose parents have less education – are disproportionately likely to lack the resources to handle modest emergency expenses.

Pre-release results. Please do not distribute