Class Discussion: How the Downturn in the Economy Has Changed American Lives

Everyone has felt the impact of the recent downturn in the economy.  If you haven’t lost your job, you probably know someone who has or someone who is afraid they will.  In addition, your investment or your parents’ investments along with the value of their retirement plans have dropped along with the stock market.  Retirees who rely on income from CDs now have to live with annual returns below 1% – and given the recent drop in the stock market, they may be the lucky ones.  So, how else has life in America changed?

To answer that question the Census Bureau sends out an annual survey called the “American Community Survey” to 4.4 million people.  This is a comprehensive survey that gathers information on income and benefits, health insurance, education, where you live and how much you pay for essentials as well as several other areas of interest.  Some of the survey results are summarized in a recent USA Today article titled, “Recession Changes the American Way of Life.”  A few of the interesting things the survey found:

  • People seem to be getting married later in life these days
  • Fewer people are actually getting married
  • There is a decline in the divorce rate
  • More households are shared with “other relatives”
  • Foreclosures have increased
  • Carpooling has declined
  • More households now do not own a car
  • Private school enrollment has declined

Clearly the downturn in the economy has had a deep impact on the American lifestyle.  Before you read the article think about how your life has been impacted by this downturn in the economy.

Discussion questions:

  1. In 2006 the average age for men and women to get married was 26.7 and 25.9 respectively; by 2010 it had risen to 28.7 for men and 26.7 for women.  Why do you think people are getting married later in life?  Do you think it is financial, social, or a bit of both?  Be prepared to discuss your opinion in class.
  2. Why do you think divorces have declined by about 7% since 2008?  Be prepared to discuss your opinion in class.
  3. Why do you think there has been a decline in the number of people carpooling?  (Hint: Look at the USA Today article.)  Be prepared to discuss your opinion in class.
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