Our Common Good

Income for American families declined more in the years following the economic recession than it did during the official recession itself, a new study shows.

During the recession, which economists say lasted from Dec. 2007 to June 2009, the median annual household income fell by 3.2 percent, from $55,309 to $53,518, according to a report authored by two former U.S. Census Bureau officials. But in the post-recession period from June 2009 to June 2011, the figure fell by 6.7 percent, from $53,518 in June 2009 to $49,909 in June 2011.

From Dec. 2007 to June 2011, the average income fell by 9.8 percent.

“A decline of this magnitude represents a significant reduction in the American standard of living,” Gordon Green and John Coder wrote.

The study found that during the post-recessionary period, families with just a male or female head with no spouse present saw a 7.3 percent decline in income compared to the 4.5 percent drop for married-couple households. Income for households with a head under the age of 25 fell by 9.5 percent, significantly more than the 5.5 percent decline for households with a head who is 45 to 54 years old.

Income levels dropped more significantly for households with a black head of the family than a family with a white head of the family during this period: 9.4 percent and 4.7 percent, respectively.

The fall in household income during the recession as well as during the recovery period were “highly correlated with high levels of unemployment, increases in the duration of unemployment, and the large number of persons who have experience ‘employment hardship,’” the report said.

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