Family Finances

Many Americans Still Face Financial Instability Despite Economic Growth

July 30, 2019  • Financial Security Program

Key Points

  • Workers said income from their primary jobs does not cover the cost of living, and many do not have sufficient emergency savings to navigate fluctuations in their resources.

National labor market data over the last few years show a strong, high-performing economy, but those big-picture numbers do not include microeconomic indicators that reflect the more difficult reality of many Americans’ financial lives.

For example, a recent Gallup survey shows that 40 percent of Americans say they are running into debt or barely making ends meet.  A third of respondents in a 2014 Pew Charitable Trusts survey reported having no savings, and more recent polling shows that many people do not have sufficient resources on hand to deal with an emergency.

To gain additional insight into the way Americans are affected by the changing economy and what they want out of it, Pew conducted a series of in-depth interviews in 2018 with a diverse group of workers and employers in eight cities and three rural areas around the country. The workers had salaries of no more than $75,000 a year. The interviews focused on the interrelationships between employer and employee needs—and people’s sense of their economic mobility.

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