Economic Distress and Poverty in Families

Authored by: M. Brent Donnellan , Monica J. Martin , Katherine J. Conger , Rand D. Conger

Handbook of Family Theories

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  March  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415879453
eBook ISBN: 9780203075180
Adobe ISBN: 9781135118754


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The first decade of the twenty-first century was characterized by relatively high levels of economic distress in the US. For example, the decade saw the highest level of unemployment since the early 1980s (Gomstyn, 2009; Irwin & Shin, 2009); economic growth averaged slightly over 2% per year since 2000, compared with 3% per year during the previous two decades and 4% in the 1960s (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2009); and there were declines in the median family income adjusted for inflation from 2000 to 2009 (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2010). In fact, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research, two periods of recession occurred in the US during the years between 2001 and 2010: the period from March of 2001 to November of 2001 and again from December of 2007 to June of 2009. This second recession represented the longest period of economic decline in the US since the Second World War, leading many to refer to it as the Great Recession. The Great Recession produced high levels of unemployment (9.6% from January to December of 2010 as opposed to 4.0% in 2000; U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011) and high levels of poverty (13.5% of families in 2009 and 42.6 million people; DeNavas-Walt, Proctor, & Smith, 2010; additional economic trends can be found in Edin & Kissane, 2010 and the National Center for Family and Marriage Research, 2011). The unfortunate reality is that the economic conditions of many families deteriorated in the first decade of the new millennium (Conger, Conger, & Martin, 2010).

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