Not Everyone Is Hurting

Conventional wisdom depicts the economic downturn as having wrought financial havoc on nearly everybody. The Economist/ YouGov polling offers a useful corrective to that picture. While 50 percent of respondents do feel they’re worse off financially than a year ago, nearly as many rate their current finances either as better (8 percent) or as about the same (39 percent, with the rest unsure).

Still, the poll (conducted at the very end of January and beginning of February) also found damage cutting across all its income groups. Forty-one percent of respondents with household income of $100,000-plus said they are worse off now than a year ago, vs. 15 percent saying they’re better off. In the under-$40,000 bracket, the “worse off” tally was higher (at 53 percent) and the “better off” vote lower (7 percent). Numbers for the middle-income cohort almost exactly matched those of the lower-income group.

The poll cast doubt on the notion that old folks were relatively untouched by the recession. Hardly any of the 65-plusers said they’re better off now than a year ago (2 percent); 54 percent said they’re worse off. The 18-29s were more upbeat, with 9 percent saying they are better off and 35 percent worse off.

Meanwhile, polling last month for American Express suggests we’re past the stage at which people vow every month to spend less than they’d been doing. Forty-nine percent of this poll’s respondents said they “expect to spend more or the same in the next 30 days” vs. the previous 30 days.