Measuring Middle Class Economic Security
Economic security is the protection from hardship causing economic losses. Such losses can occur due to unemployment, medical emergencies, and other unforeseen events. To measure how well prepared families are for these events, we calculate a series of middle class security indicators, specifically the share of families who have enough financial wealth to weather an unemployment spell, those who can cover a medical emergency, those can handle both unemployment and a medical emergency and those who can sustain an emergency that requires three months of income. Based on data from the Federal Reserve, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, we find that economic security steadily improved in the 1990s, but sharply declined after 2000. Within 2-3 years, all gains of the 1990s were erased due to a debt boom fuelled by weak income growth and sharp price increases.
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