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How the Great Recession Has Affected Americans

More than half of Americans have been negatively affected in many ways by the recent recession. Here's a look at just what it's done to the Land of Opportunity.

great recession of 2008

The Great Recession ranks as the worst slowdown that the United States has suffered in decades. Not surprisingly, this economic meltdown has affected U.S. residents in a wide variety of ways.

The recession has certainly altered the spending habits of U.S. consumers. In a recent poll, 62 percent of respondents said they had cut back on their spending since the start of the recession. Only 6 percent said they were spending more. An additional 30 percent said they were spending the same.

The recession has also changed the way many people work. According to the survey, 32 percent of U.S. residents say that they either are or have been unemployed because of the recession. At the same time, 28 percent say they have had their work hours reduced, while 12 percent have had to take unpaid leave. An additional 11 percent of workers have had to switch to a part-time work schedule, while 23 percent have had to take a pay cut. Finally, 6 percent of respondents say they are now under-employed.

How long do families think it will take them to recover from the Great Recession? There is a wide variety here, too. A total of 5 percent of U.S. families say it will take them less than a year to recover, while 27 percent estimate that it will take them a year or two to bounce back. For other families, the recession has had a much larger impact. A total of 40 percent estimate that it will take them three to five years to fully recover, while 10 percent predict that it will take them six to 10 years. Also included in this last group are those families who say they will never recover from the effects of the Great Recession.

Home values have also tumbled thanks to the Great Recession. According to the survey, 26 percent of U.S. homeowners have seen the value of their residences fall significantly during the recession. Another 22 percent have seen their home values fall a little, while 33 percent say they have stayed the same. Only 8 percent of homeowners say their home values have gone up a little. An even smaller 4 percent say they have gone up a lot.

Consumers have taken steps to adjust to these troubling economic times. A large total of 71 percent of consumers say they have purchased less expensive brands during the recession, while 15 percent have increased their credit card balances to pay bills. A total of 27 percent of consumers have struggled to pay medical bills. A large number, 57 percent, have cut back or canceled vacations, while 24 percent have borrowed from family members or friends. Some have even made big changes: 11 percent say they have postponed either getting married or having a baby thanks to the recession.

Others, 20 percent, have struggled to make their mortgage payments. An additional 30 percent have spent less on alcohol and cigarettes, while 2 percent have lost their homes. Many others, 60 percent, reported that they will have to delay the date of their retirement thanks to the recession.

What is surprising is that so many people still view the United States as a land of prosperity even after the Great Recession’s impact: 52 percent of lower-class respondents said the United States was still a prosperous nation, while 70 percent of middle-class respondents agreed. A total of 63 percent of upper-class respondents said the same.

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