Economic Well-Being In The United States

| April 10, 2019

Anyone who attends our public presentations knows how much we value all of the quality information that is free to us as Americans. We are much better off than the citizens of Canada, who struggle with terrible gaps in necessary information. The Globe and Mail has been running a series for several months on just how bad the situation is there and how policy makers operate in the informational darkness. Recently we have been perusing the May 2018 Report of the Economic Well-Being of U.S, Households in 2017, produced by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve. We recommend a few minutes to browse this valuable document, which can be found here:

The Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households

Some highlights:

  • When asked about their finances, 74 percent of adults said they were either doing okay or living comfortably in 2017—over 10 percentage points more than in the first survey in 2013.

  • Individuals of all education levels have shared in the improvement over the past five years, though the more educated still report greater well-being than those less educated.
  • Over three-fourths of whites were at least doing okay financially in 2017 versus less than two-thirds of blacks and Hispanics.

  • Three in five urban residents describe the economy in their local community as good or excellent versus two in five rural residents who offer this positive of an assessment of local conditions.

  • In an effort to understand how the opioid crisis may relate to economic well-being, the survey asked questions related to opioids for the first time. About one-fifth of adults and one-quarter of white adults personally know someone who has been addicted to opioids. Exposure to opioid addiction was much more common among whites—at all education levels—than minorities. Those who have been exposed to addiction have somewhat less favorable assessments of economic conditions than those who have not been exposed.

Generally, life has been improving in the United States. Unfortunately, forty percent of adults cannot raise $400 in an emergency, more than 20% cannot fully pay one-month’s bills, and more than a quarter skip necessary medical care due to money.* One possible cause is the poor financial literacy uncovered in the survey. The average respondent could answer fewer than “three out of five basic financial literacy questions correctly.”* Recent data gives us hope that the 2018 report will continue to show growth in the rate of participation by those who have languished for too long. Unfortunately, economic growth cannot solve widespread financial illiteracy. We shall update you when the 2018 report is available.

*Board of Governors of The Federal Reserve System. “ Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2017.” May 2018.