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IWPR/Rockefeller Survey of Economic Security

Single mother with sons


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About the IWPR/Rockefeller Survey of Economic Security

The Great Recession dramatically altered the lives of many Americans, creating pronounced economic stress and uncertainty for both individuals and families. Even after the recession was officially declared over, unemployment levels remained persistently high, while housing values remained notably low.

These circumstances led the Institute for Women’s Policy Research to develop the IWPR/Rockefeller Survey of Economic Security. The survey results have been published in two timely and critical reports. On the Edge: Economic Insecurity After the Great Recession shows that the impacts of the recession have been both broad and deep. Many Americans—women and single mothers in particular—have been forced to make difficult decisions such as not filling medical prescriptions, not visiting the doctor, or not taking their children to the doctor, ‘doubling up’ or sharing housing with others,  withdrawing money from retirement accounts, or using food stamps or simply going hungry.

The second report in the series, Retirement on the Edge, shows Americans are under enormous financial stress and are worried about their retirement years. The survey findings also show resounding support for Social Security and Medicare across lines of gender, age, race/ethnicity, and party affiliation. Most Americans do not believe Social Security to be in crisis, very few support cuts to either Medicare or Social Security, and a majority support Social Security benefit increases—a perspective that appears to be out of line with the thinking of many policymakers and candidates for office.

The survey on which the report is based contains several innovative questions that provide new data on several topics:  the extent and severity of unemployment in the same household, whether the high earner in the household became unemployed, doubling up for economic reasons, penalties at work for absences, and penalties at work for sharing pay information (“pay secrecy”).

The survey was administered to 2,746 adults aged 18 and older between September and November 2010. The sample for the survey was stratified to yield approximately equal numbers of white, black, and Hispanic respondents with results weighted by American Community Survey data to reflect the non-institutional, adult population of the nation. The survey included a select number of questions from earlier surveys, such as the Rockefeller Foundation’s February 2007 American Workers Survey and the National Academy of Social Insurance/Rockefeller Survey of 2009. These questions were worded the same or in similar ways in the current survey to allow for comparison between respondents’ views in 2010 and in the previous studies

Media Resources

Media Advisory: IWPR to Release Report Series on Impact of Recession on Americans’ Economic Security, Retirement Prospects, and Attitudes on Social Security & Medicare

Figure: Unemployed and Looking for Work for One Month or Longer in the Last Two Years by Age for Women and Men

Press Release: Survey: Women Faring Poorly in Recovery

Press Release: Survey: Post-Recession, Americans’ Support for Social Security Continues Across Party Lines

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Latest Reports from IWPR

Women and Men Living on the Edge: Economic Insecurity After the Great Recession
by Jeffrey Hayes, Ph.D. and Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D. (September 2011)

The IWPR/Rockefeller Survey of Economic Security, like several other recent surveys, finds that the effects of the 2007–2009 recession, known as the Great Recession, are both broad and deep. The IWPR/Rockefeller survey shows that more than one and a half years after the recession came to an official end, and the recovery supposedly began, many women and men report that they are still suffering significant hardships. They are having difficulty paying for basics like food (26 million women and 15 million men), health care (46 million women and 34 million men), rent or mortgage (32 million women and 25 million men), transportation (37 million women and 28 million men), utility bills (41 million women and 27 million men), and they have difficulty saving for the future (65 million women and 53 million men). On almost every measure of insecurity and hardship the survey reveals the Great Recession has visited more hardship on women than it has on men.

C386, Report, 102 pages

Retirement on the Edge: Women, Men, and Economic Insecurity After the Great Recession
by Cynthia Hess, Ph.D., Jeff Hayes, Ph.D. and, Heidi Hartmann, Ph.D. (September 2011)

The IWPR/Rockefeller Survey addressed the extent of economic security almost a year and a half after the recession officially ended. Many of the survey’s findings are detailed in the report, Women and Men Living On the Edge: Economic Insecurity After the Great Recession (Hayes and Hartmann 2011). This report analyzes a specific aspect of the IWPR/Rockefeller Survey’s findings: issues related to retirement security following the recession. It finds that men and women after the Great Recession experience uncertainty about the adequacy of their financial resources for the proverbial “golden years,” an uncertainty that may shape how they view the meaning of retirement and their own decisions about the future.

D500, Report, 68 pages

Talking Points on Retirement and Social Security
by Cynthia Hess (January 2012)

Talking Points on Retirement and Social Security

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