All Publications

Immigration and the Great Recession

  • Author: Douglas S. Massey
  • Date: October 10, 2012
Immigration has been a major component of demographic change in the United States over the past several decades, constituting at least a third of U.S. population growth and up to a half of labor force growth in any given year. By any standard, it is a central feature of the nation’s political economy and thus especially important to monitor as the Great Recession plays out. This brief reviews levels and patterns of immigration to the United States over the past three decades, with a particular focus on their implications for the nation as it recovers from the worst economic downturn since the 1930s.

Income, Wealth and Debt and the Great Recession

  • Author: Timothy Smeeding
  • Date: October 10, 2012
The Great Depression is often cast as the beginning of the end for the late Gilded Age. Because it brought on the institutional reforms of the New Deal, it led to dramatic reductions in income inequality and set the stage for a long period of comparatively low inequality. The purpose of this recession brief is to ask whether the Great Recession, like the Great Depression, is likewise shaping up as a compressive event that will reverse some of the run-up in inequality of the so-called New Gilded Age. This question can be taken on by examining recent and long-term trends in wealth inequality, income inequality, median incomes, and debt.

The Labor Force and the Great Recession

  • Authors: Michael Hout and Erin Cumberworth
  • Date: October 10, 2012
The Great Recession and the slow recovery since have been the longest economic slump in seventy years. It affected vulnerable populations more than others. In this brief, our aim is to put this disaster into historical context, looking first at the overall state of the labor market and then at how the economic harm has been distributed across the population by gender, level of education, and race and ethnicity.

Poverty and the Great Recession

  • Authors: Sheldon Danziger, Koji Chavez, and Erin Cumberworth
  • Date: October 10, 2012
Severe economic downturns, like the Great Depression, are associated with substantial increases in poverty and material hardship. Since the Great Depression, the United States has developed programs and policies, many of which were launched during the New Deal and the War on Poverty-Great Society periods, that aim to protect the poor, the unemployed, children, the disabled, and the elderly against severe deprivation. It is important to examine how these programs performed during the most severe recession the country has experienced since the Great Depression.

Political Attitudes, Public Opinion, and the Great Recession

  • Authors: Lane Kenworthy and Lindsay A. Owens
  • Date: October 10, 2012
Has the Great Recession altered American views about business, finance, government, opportunity, inequality, and fairness? Has it changed the public's preferences regarding the appropriate role of government in regulating the economy and helping the less fortunate? Has it shifted political orientations or party allegiances? The purpose of this recession brief is to examine whether such opinions have changed during the Great Recession and prior recessions as much as it's often assumed.

Older Workers, Retirement, and the Great Recession

  • Author: Richard W. Johnson
  • Date: October 10, 2012
The workforce in the United States is becoming ever older. Because the number of older workers is growing, and because work is increasingly important to older adults, it is worth examining how older workers are faring in the Great Recession. This brief reports on employment, unemployment, and labor force participation among older workers since 2007, just before the labor market collapsed. It focuses on workers age 62 or older, nearly all of whom qualify for Social Security retirement benefits, an important safety net if laid off. However, it also examines outcomes for workers as young as age 50, whom employers appear somewhat reluctant to hire.

The Social Safety Net and the Great Recession

  • Author: Robert A. Moffitt
  • Date: October 10, 2012
As the economic downturn wears on, the debate about U.S. spending on the safety net has become increasingly rancorous. Indeed, former presidential candidate Newt Gingrich famously referred to Barack Obama as "the food stamp president" in the early-2012 campaign trail. The purpose of this recession brief is to step back from the rancor and describe in straightforward fashion how spending on the safety net has responded to the Great Recession.

Less Than Equal: Racial Disparities in Wealth Accumulation

  • Authors: Signe-Mary McKernan, Caroline Ratcliffe, Eugene Steuerle, Sisi Zhang
  • Date: April 4, 2013
Income inequality understates the size of the economic gap between whites and minorities in the United States. In 2010, whites on average had two times the income of blacks and Hispanics, but six times the wealth. Analyses of wealth accumulation over the life cycle show that the racial wealth gap grows sharply with age. Wealth isn't just money in the bank, it's insurance against tough times, tuition to get a better education and a better job, savings to retire on, and a springboard into the middle class.

How Much Protection Does a College Degree Afford? The Impact of the Recession on Recent College Graduates

  • Author: The Pew Charitable Trusts
  • Date: January 1, 2013
Past research from Pew’s Economic Mobility Project has shown the power of a college education to both promote upward mobility and prevent downward mobility. The chances of moving from the bottom of the family income ladder all the way to the top are three times greater for someone with a college degree than for someone without one. Moreover, when compared with their less-credentialed counterparts, college graduates have been able to count on much higher earnings and lower unemployment rates. Even during the Great Recession, college graduates maintained higher rates of employment and higher earnings compared with less educated adults. However, the question of how recent college graduates have fared has remained largely unexamined, and many in the popular media have suggested that the advantageous market situation of college graduates is beginning to unravel under the pressure of the economic downturn. This study examines whether a college degree protected these recent graduates from a range of poor employment outcomes during the recession, including unemployment, low-skill jobs, and lesser wages.

Tax Structure and Revenue Instability: The Great Recession and the States

  • Authors: Howard Chernick, Cordelia Reimers, Jennifer Tennant
  • Date: March 3, 2013
Though the great recession has had the most severe overall effect on state tax revenues of any downturn since the Great Depression, impacts varied widely across states. Tax revenues were affected through two different channels. The first is due to the collapse in realized capital gains income following the sharp decline in the stock market. State tax bases are affected in proportion to pre-recession reliance on capital gains income, in turn closely associated with the degree of income concentration. Largely due to capital gains income, the income of high-income taxpayers is more cyclically sensitive than that of lower-income taxpayers. The second channel, the differential effect on state output and employment, has its greatest impact on incomes below the top 5 percent of the distribution. We hypothesize that variation in revenue impact across states is due to differences in the severity of the income shocks at different levels of income, the degree of income inequality, the importance of capital gains in top incomes, and the level and progressivity of tax burdens. Progressive states are likely to be more vulnerable to revenue losses in economic downturns. Progressivity and income volatility may interact to amplify the recession’s fiscal impact.