Nearly half of Americans are living in a state of “financial fragility,” a new paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research reveals. To determine this statistic, researchers from the George Washington School of Business, Princeton University, and Harvard Business School asked survey participants whether they would be able to come up with $2,000 for an “unexpected expense in the next month.” 22.2 percent predicted they would be “probably unable” and 27.9 percent said they’d certainly be unable to foot the unplanned bill. The hypothetical cost “reflects the order of magnitude of the cost of an unanticipated major car repair, a large co-payment on a medical expense, legal expenses, or a home repair.” But, it was the participants’ method of coping that really determined their fragility:
Taken together with those who would pawn their possessions, sell their home, or take out a payday loan, 25.7% of respondents who were asked about coping methods (equal to 18.6% of all respondents) would come up with the funds for an emergency by resorting to what might be seen as extreme measures,” the authors write. “Along with the 27.9% of respondents who report that they could certainly not cope with an emergency, this suggests that approximately 46.5% of all respondents are living very close to the financial edge.
It would be interesting to find out to what people attribute their hardship. For example, do people blame the state of the economy, large scale free-market or heavy handed government economic policies? Or do they blame themselves or attribute other more personal faults to their hardship?
Also what people then do with this information when presented with it? So would a person who thought that their financial hardship was their own fault or problem change their mind when they realized that half of America shares their same problem?
I tend to assume that most people atomize their financial problems, and direct the blame at themselves or other individuals, rather than attributing it to a problem of politics, class, race or society (especially class, people typically do not think of themselves as members of a “class,” thinking in these terms would go against the whole American ethic of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” and solving your own problems yourself).