The Financial Vulnerability of Americans

Atif Mian & Amir Sufi::

Excessive household debt was crucial in explaining the severity of the Great Recession. So where are we now? Have households strengthened their financial position since 2009? Are household balance sheets strong enough to prevent another massive pull back in spending if there are significant job losses?
 To answer to these questions, we look at evidence from the 2012 National Financial Capability Study by FINRA. (We are grateful to Annamaria Lusardi, an expert on financial literacy, for pointing us to the data used in this post.) This survey is a representative sample of 25,000 individuals who were asked mostly qualitative questions about their finances. The survey was put into the field three years after the worst of the Great Recession.
 The survey responses are shocking, and should put fear into all of us about the financial vulnerability of U.S. households.