Labor market effects and social costs

After suffering the longest recession since the 1930s, the United States is now ten years past the official end of the Great Recession of 2007-2009, but the effects are still seen in the form of high unemployment and numerous other labor market problems that threaten the well-being of American families. Labor market data show that as of May 2011 more than 13.9 million Americans were still out of work (Grusky et al., 2011). Improvements in the economy are slow and it could take several years for society to return to the relative economic stability of the pre-recession period; however, the lives of the poor and disenfranchised may be changed forever. African Americans were hit particularly hard by the recession. However, even in the best of times, some black communities experience a permanent recession. How black family life was changed by the recession, and the degree to which it affected the long-term status of African Americans, are important questions.

Social costs of the recession may be seen in different responses to pain, stress, burden, and hardship. For example, what are some of the social and psychological responses to foreclosures, homelessness, job losses, or increased poverty among African Americans? Or, how might these factors be exacerbated among this group? For example, foreclosures and job losses are directly related to intimate partner violence in Princes Georges County, Maryland, and will be discussed later in this book. It is likely that the Great Recession has impacted the African American family in ways that we may never be able to measure, and that its effects will persist for a long time.

What makes the 2007–2009 Recession “Great”?

The Great Recession is unique in that it was brought about by a dramatic housing crisis, thus, triggering a severe labor-market crisis resulting in changes in attitudes, behaviors, and institutions (Grusky et al., 2011). According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011), this recession was deeper and more extensive than any other since the depression of the 1930s. The economy lost 8.5 million jobs, from a peak of 138.1 million jobs in December 2007 to 129.6 million in February 2010. The unemployment rate more than doubled between 2007 and 2009, from 5.0 percent to 10.4 percent (Grusky et al., 2011). African Americans and the less-educated suffered more from unemployment than other groups during this period. Job losses for African Americans were more severe than for any other group. American households lost some $ 16 trillion of net worth. The jobs lost during the Great Recession mean that incomes have declined, poverty and homeless have increased, and families have lost their health insurance. In addition, family wealth has decreased, especially for African Americans whose American Dream was invested in their home (Economic Policy Institute, 2016).

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