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The Financial Crisis and the Well-Being of Americans

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  • Angus S. Deaton

Abstract

The Great Recession was associated with large changes in income, wealth, and unemployment, changes that affected many lives. Since January 2008, the Gallup Organization has been collecting daily data on 1,000 Americans each day, with a range of self-reported well-being (SWB) questions. I use these data to examine how the recession affected the emotional and evaluative lives of the population, as well as of subgroups within it. In the fall of 2008, around the time of the collapse of Lehman Brothers, and lasting into the spring of 2009, at the bottom of the stock market, Americans reported sharp declines in their life evaluation, sharp increases in worry and stress, and declines in positive affect. By the end of 2010, in spite of continuing high unemployment, these measures had largely recovered, though worry remained higher and life evaluation lower than in January 2008. The SWB measures do a much better job of monitoring short-run levels of anxiety as the crisis unfolded than they do of reflecting the evolution of the economy over a year or two. Even large macroeconomic shocks to income and unemployment can be expected to produce only small and hard to detect effects on SWB measures. SWB, particularly evaluation of life as a whole, is sensitive to question order effects. Asking political questions before the life evaluation question reduces reported life evaluation by an amount that dwarfs the effects of even the worst of the crisis; these order effects persist deep into the interview, and condition the reporting of hedonic experience and of satisfaction with standard of living. Methods for controlling these effects need to be developed and tested if national measures are to be comparable over space and time.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17128.

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Date of creation: Jun 2011
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Publication status: published as Angus Deaton, 2012. "The financial crisis and the well-being of Americans," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 64(1), pages 1-26, January.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17128

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  1. Andrew Clark & Andreas Knabe & Steffen Rätzel, 2008. "Boon or Bane? Others' Unemployment, Well-being and Job Insecurity," CESifo Working Paper Series 2501, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. repec:pse:psecon:2008-67 is not listed on IDEAS
  3. Dimitrios Christelis & Dimitris Georgarakos & Tullio Jappelli, 2011. "Wealth Shocks, Unemployment Shocks and Consumption in the Wake of the Great Recession," CSEF Working Papers 279, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy, revised 19 Oct 2011.
  4. Rajashri Chakrabarti & Donghoon Lee & Wilbert van der Klaauw & Basit Zafar, 2011. "Household Debt and Saving During the 2007 Recession," NBER Working Papers 16999, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Michael D. Hurd & Susann Rohwedder, 2010. "Effects of the Financial Crisis and Great Recession on American Households," NBER Working Papers 16407, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  7. repec:hal:wpaper:halshs-00586022 is not listed on IDEAS
  8. Angus Deaton, 2008. "Income, Health, and Well-Being around the World: Evidence from the Gallup World Poll," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(2), pages 53-72, Spring.
  9. DiTella, Rafael & MacCulloch, Robert & Oswald, Andrew J., 2001. "Preferences over inflation and unemployment: Evidence from surveys of happiness," ZEI Working Papers B 03-2001, ZEI - Center for European Integration Studies, University of Bonn.
  10. Di Tella, R. & MacCulloch, R.J.: Oswald, A.J., 1997. "The Macroeconomics of Happiness," Papers 19, Centre for Economic Performance & Institute of Economics.
  11. Jesse Bricker & Brian K. Bucks & Arthur Kennickell & Traci L. Mach & Kevin Moore, 2011. "Drowning or Weathering the Storm? Changes in Family Finances from 2007 to 2009," NBER Working Papers 16985, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Robert Metcalfe & Nattavudh Powdthavee & Paul Dolan, 2011. "Destruction and Distress: Using a Quasi‐Experiment to Show the Effects of the September 11 Attacks on Mental Well‐Being in the United Kingdom," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 121(550), pages F81-F103, February.
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Cited by:
  1. Melissa McInerney & Jennifer M. Mellor & Lauren Hersch Nicholas, 2013. "Recession Depression: Mental Health Effects of the 2008 Stock Market Crash," CESifo Working Paper Series 4263, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Goebel, Jan & Krekel, Christian & Tiefenbach, Tim & Ziebarth, Nicolas R., 2013. "Natural Disaster, Policy Action, and Mental Well-Being: The Case of Fukushima," IZA Discussion Papers 7691, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Marcus Klemm, 2011. "You Don't Know What You've Got till It's Gone!: Unemployment and Intertemporal Changes in Self-Reported Life Satisfaction," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 421, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  4. Carlson, Kyle, 2014. "Fear itself: The effects of distressing economic news on birth outcomes," MPRA Paper 56560, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  5. Manuela Angelucci & Dean Karlan & Jonathan Zinman, 2014. "Microcredit Impacts: Evidence from a Randomized Microcredit Program Placement Experiment by Compartamos Banco," NBER Working Papers 19827, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Dimitrios Christelis & Dimitris Georgarakos & Tullio Jappelli, 2011. "Wealth Shocks, Unemployment Shocks and Consumption in the Wake of the Great Recession," CSEF Working Papers 279, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy, revised 19 Oct 2011.
  7. Grosjean, Pauline & Ricka, Frantisek & Senik, Claudia, 2013. "Learning, political attitudes and crises: Lessons from transition countries," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(2), pages 490-505.
  8. Derek D. Headey, 2013. "The Impact of the Global Food Crisis on Self-Assessed Food Security," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 27(1), pages 1-27.
  9. Andy Sumner & Richard Mallett, 2013. "Capturing Multidimensionality: What does a Human Wellbeing Conceptual Framework Add to the Analysis of Vulnerability?," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 113(2), pages 671-690, September.
  10. Ed Diener & Ronald Inglehart & Louis Tay, 2013. "Theory and Validity of Life Satisfaction Scales," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 112(3), pages 497-527, July.
  11. Cojocaru, Alexandru & Diagne, Mame Fatou, 2013. "How reliable and consistent are subjective measures of welfare in Europe and Central Asia ? evidence from the second life in transition survey," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6359, The World Bank.
  12. Headey, Derek D. & Ecker, Olivier, 2012. "Improving the measurement of food security:," IFPRI discussion papers 1225, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  13. Christopher Christodoulou & Stefan Schneider & Arthur Stone, 2014. "Validation of a Brief Yesterday Measure of Hedonic Well-Being and Daily Activities: Comparison with the Day Reconstruction Method," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 115(3), pages 907-917, February.
  14. Marta Lachowska, 2013. "Expenditure, Confidence, and Uncertainty: Identifying Shocks to Consumer Confidence Using Daily Data," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 13-197, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.

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