A Tale of Two Recessions

Last week, economists declared that the Great Recession, which began in late 2007, actually ended in June 2009. Yet, as bad as the economy has been, a new survey claims that the Great Recession really wasn’t that big a deal for nearly half of Americans.

According to a report from the Pew Research Center, 55% of Americans “lost ground” during the recession, meaning they lost a job, missed a payment on their house or endured other financial hardships. On the other hand, 45% of those surveyed claimed to have “held their own” during the recession, meaning they may have experienced some setbacks but were largely left unscathed by the economic downturn.

Pew’s results are based on surveys with nearly 3,000 Americans and they paint a surprising portrait of a country that experienced two very different recessions.

“For example, more than four-in-ten adults who Lost Ground (43%) say they were unemployed at some point during the recession, compared with less than 1% of those who Held their Own. Fully a third (35%) of those who Lost Ground had problems paying their rent or mortgage, while not a single one of those who Held their Own reported similar difficulties,” Pew reported. “Likewise, no one who Held their Own during the recession reported having trouble finding or paying for medical care, or having to borrow money from friends or family to pay bills, compared with 48% and 42%, respectively, of those who Lost Ground.”

So who exactly were these Americans who seemed to coast through the recession?

Pew Research found that those who held their own were more likely to be older white Americans who had graduated from college, identified themselves as Republican and lived along the East Coast. In fact, about 70% of those 65 and older who were surveyed said they held their own.

By contrast, younger Americans, minorities and those with only a high school education were more likely to have lost ground during the recession.

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