Recession Affecting Every Aspect of American Life | News

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Recession Affecting Every Aspect of American Life

The nation's financial crisis is altering Americans' way of life from the home and the workplace to the highway and the altar, according to 2009 Census data released Tuesday.

Median household income - the level where half make more and half make less - fell 2.9% from $51,726 in 2008 to $50,221 last year, the second consecutive annual drop, according to the American Community Survey, far-reaching demographic data separate from the 2010 Census.

"The recession has affected every aspect of American life," says Mark Mather, a demographer at the Population Reference Bureau. "It doesn't matter if you're lower income or higher income, highly educated or just have a high school degree."

People are cautious because they don't know when the economy will improve, says Robert Lang, an urban sociologist at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. "They're risk-averse," he says. "It's a short-term crisis but it's changing long-term expectations. Just like the Great Depression haunted the postwar years, this recession is so deep, its impact may alter the first several decades of this century." 

The data show the impact of the recession that began in December 2007 - the National Bureau of Economic Research says it officially ended in June 2009 - and the housing bust that began earlier:

•Fewer people are moving. The share of people who haven't changed homes in the previous year climbed from 83.2% in 2006 to 84.6% in 2009.

•Delaying marriage. For the first time since the government began tracking the data, the share of women 18 and older who are married fell below 50%. "The recession has accelerated the trend," Mather says. "A lot of these young adults are choosing to live together rather than get married. It's kind of an adaptive response to the lack of jobs and economic uncertainty."

The share of adults ages 25 to 34 who have never married has jumped from 34.5% in 2000 to 46.3% in 2009, his analysis shows.

•Cars and home offices. The share of homes that have more than one car dropped, but the proportion of workers who worked from home jumped from 3.9% in 2006 to 4.3% last year. "The recession is altering behavior," Lang says. "It's the downsizing of America."

•Demand for higher education. The percentage of people holding a bachelor's degree or higher edged up to 27.9% in 2009, another potential effect of the recession. "You finish your bachelor's degree and there's no job available," Mather says. "More people are going for master's or some kind of professional degree."

•Income inequality. The gap between the rich and poor was unchanged in 2009 from 2008.


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