During the Great Recession of 2007 to 2009, millions of Americans faced severe economic hardship, forcing difficult decisions about how to stabilize their families' financial well-being and prevent downward economic mobility. Americans with savings were forced to weigh immediate needs against long-term investments, choosing whether to deplete personal assets in order to stay afloat. Those without wealth to fall back on were in an even more precarious position, leading them to turn to family assistance, debt, and other public and private supports when available.
This study examines how families weather economic shocks through a close focus on one particular event -- the experience of unemployment, with specific attention to differences by race and family income. The analysis used a nationally representative sample of working-age families from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics or PSID, following the same households from 1999 to 2009. To provide greater insight into the challenges and choices families faced, the report also drew on a unique longitudinal data set of in-depth interviews with 51 families that endured one month or more of unemployment between 1998 and 2012.