Economic Anxiety Index®

What the Marketplace-Edison Research Poll found

Marketplace Staff Oct 23, 2015

The Marketplace-Edison Research Poll helps explain a conundrum in the American economy. Despite its continued improvement, there’s still discontent among many Americans about their personal economic situations.

 The Marketplace-Edison Research national survey of more than 1,000 adults measured respondents’ worry about their current and future financial condition, their fears about job security and their concerns about meeting their expenses. Working with Edison Research, Marketplace took those responses and developed the Economic Anxiety Index. The mean score on the Economic Anxiety Index for the inaugural survey was 31 on a scale of 0 to 100.

 Certain demographic groups exhibit higher levels of economic anxiety. Hispanics, with a mean score of 44, and African-Americans (36) demonstrate more economic anxiety than Whites (28). By age, economic anxiety peaks among the 25-34 year old age group, with a mean score of 39, and those in households with annual incomes of less than $25,000 have a mean score of 42.

Respondents in this survey expressed worries about their economic situation in many ways: 

63 percent said they are sometimes or frequently anxious about their financial situation

42 percent said they feel stuck in their current financial situation

27 percent said they are not financially secure

28 percent said their personal financial situation causes them to lose sleep

 Americans also report “a lot” of fear about paying monthly bills. More than 10 percent fear being unable to make a car payment, more than 10 percent fear being unable to make a mortgage payment, more than 25 percent fear being unable to pay rent and more than 33 percent fear not being able to make a student loan payment.

More than 30 percent have “a lot” of fear over not having enough saved for retirement, nearly a quarter fear facing an unexpected medical bill and more than 20 percent fear not being able to afford college for their children.

More than 38 percent have at least a little fear about losing their job in the next 12 months, and more than 11 percent say if they lost their jobs, they are not at all confident they could find a new one in the next six months.

There is a stark divide among those who earn a salary and those who are paid hourly. Among hourly workers, 32 percent say their financial situation causes lost sleep, compared to 17 percent among those who are paid a salary. Similarly, 43 percent of hourly workers feels stuck, while only 21 percent of salaried workers report feeling that way. The Economic Anxiety Index scores of those groups reflect that difference. Hourly workers have a mean Economic Anxiety Index score of 39, compared to 26 for salaried workers.

The survey found broad support for the government’s role in providing a social safety net, with more than three quarters agreeing that the federal government should be providing unemployment benefits to those who lose their job, food stamps to the poor, college tuition assistance to low- and middle-income families, subsidies for health care benefits and job training programs.

There was a significant group who regretted the amount of college debt they acquired, with 38 percent saying that taking on debt for their education was not worth it. 

Respondents expressed a sense of optimism despite the insecurity that many feel, with 79 percent saying hard work plays a bigger role than luck in getting ahead and 72 percent agreeing that they feel they have a fair opportunity to achieve the life they hope for.  

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