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The Financial Crisis and the Well-Being of Americans

  • Angus S. Deaton

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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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w17128.pdf
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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
Note: AG EFG PE
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  1. Andrew Clark & Andreas Knabe & Steffen Rätzel, 2008. "Boon or Bane?: Others' Unemployment, Well-Being and Job Insecurity," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 153, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  2. Christelis, Dimitris & Georgarakos, Dimitris & Jappelli, Tullio, 2011. "Wealth shocks, unemployment shocks and consumption in the wake of the Great Recession," CFS Working Paper Series 2011/27, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Graham, Carol & Eggers, Andrew & Sukhtankar, Sandip, 2004. "Does happiness pay?: An exploration based on panel data from Russia," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 55(3), pages 319-342, November.
  6. repec:hal:wpaper:halshs-00586022 is not listed on IDEAS
  7. 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.
  8. Rafael Di Tella & Robert J. MacCulloch & Andrew J. Oswald, 2003. "The Macroeconomics of Happiness," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 85(4), pages 809-827, November.
  9. Clark, Andrew E & Oswald, Andrew J, 1994. "Unhappiness and Unemployment," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 104(424), pages 648-59, May.
  10. Andrew E. Clark & Andreas Knabe & Steffen Rätzel, 2008. "Boon or Bane? Others' unemployment, well-being and job insecurity," PSE Working Papers halshs-00586022, HAL.
  11. repec:pse:psecon:2008-67 is not listed on IDEAS
  12. Rajashri Chakrabarti & Donghoon Lee & Wilbert van der Klaauw & Basit Zafar, 2013. "Household Debt and Saving during the 2007 Recession," NBER Chapters, in: Measuring Wealth and Financial Intermediation and Their Links to the Real Economy National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. 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.
  14. Robert J. MacCulloch & Rafael Di Tella & Andrew J. Oswald, 2001. "Preferences over Inflation and Unemployment: Evidence from Surveys of Happiness," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 335-341, March.
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