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KERA's One Crisis Away project focuses on North Texans living on the financial edge.

Why Americans Feel Anxious During A Recovering Economy


KERA's series, One Crisis Away, looks at life for people on the financial edge. In this edition, why some people feel they can’t get away from the edge even as the economy is recovering.

Sam Baker talked with Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal about the survey the show did to find out.

From Kai Ryssdal’s interview:

Reason for the Economic Anxiety Index: “We went into it wanting to know what was going on out there. If you look at the economy just by the numbers, we’re adding 125,000 jobs a month. The economy is growing – not as fast as we want it to – but we know from all our reporting since the great recession that people aren’t feeling it, that people don’t have that sense of security, I guess, that you’d expect in an economy that’s growing as ours is. So we wanted to quantify that.”

What the survey found out: “(People) are worried about losing their jobs, about the amount of student debt that they have. Twenty-five percent of the people we talked to are worried about making the monthly rent. That tells you a couple of things. First of all, costs are too high, whether it’s rent, student loans or what have you. But also, the jobs that are being added are not the kind of jobs that pay well enough to live in an economy where there are so many challenges.”

About salaried vs hourly workers: “Forty-three percent of hourly workers feel stuck. They don’t feel there is opportunity for them. They have jobs, not careers. That number for salaried workers is only 20 percent.”

Nearly two out of five people with student loan debt don’t think the loans were worth it:  “That speaks to two things: The high and rising cost of higher education in this country, but also the kinds of jobs people are trying to get when they graduate out of those schools. The issue is how much you have to invest in an education versus the kinds of jobs you get when you come out.”

Some people remain optimistic about the economy: “People still believe in the American dream. 72 percent of the people we talked to think the American dream is alive. They think that if you work hard you can get there. You don’t have to be lucky. You don’t have to get a break. If you keep your nose to the grind stone and work, it’s going to happen for you.”

For more information:

Marketplace Economic Anxiety Index

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.