Five years after recession, most households still not better off

August 7, 2014, 11:39 PM UTC

Five years after the financial crisis, most U.S. households see themselves as either being worse off than they were in 2008 or about the same, according to a study released Thursday by the Federal Reserve.

The Fed surveyed more than 4,000 households last fall about topics like their wealth, access to credit and the housing market. What it found is that many people are still suffering from the aftershocks of the recession despite a much-improved economy.

More than a third of all respondents said they were worse off financially than five years ago. Another third said that they were doing about the same.

Only 10% of respondents felt they were doing much better than they had been in 2008, highlighting the dual nature of the recovery. Twenty percent more said they were somewhat better off.

The unemployment rate in the U.S. at the time of the survey was around 7.2%, more than a percentage point higher than it was five years earlier, but also well below the high-water mark of 10% the rate hit at the height of the recession in the fall of 2009. The unemployment rate now stands at 6.2%.

Most households surveyed didn’t complain much about their finances. Sixty percent said they were either “doing okay” or “living comfortably” when asked how they were managing financially. And, among the homeowners surveyed, most believed home prices in their neighborhoods would increase within the year following the survey, with 26% saying they expected increases of 5% or less while 14% of respondents expecting an increase of greater than 5%.

Meanwhile, many respondents said credit was hard to come by. Nearly one-third of those who had applied for some type of credit in the 12 months prior to the survey either got less than they had applied for or were turned down flat. The Fed also found that 19% of those surveyed put off applying altogether for fear that they would be declined. A little more than half of the respondents were confident that they would be able to obtain a mortgage if they were to apply.

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