This report describes the responses to the sixth annual Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking(SHED). The goal of the survey is to share the wide range of financial challenges and opportunities facing individuals and households inthe United States. For many, the findings are positive;however, areas of distress and fragility remain.The survey also reveals how households view their own financial lives and the many decisions they face,from education to retirement.
Most measures of economic well-being and financial resilience in 2018 are similar to or slightly better thanin 2017. Many families have experienced substantial gains since the survey began in 2013, in line with thenation’s ongoing economic expansion during that period. Even so, another year of economic expansion and the low national unemployment rates did little to narrow the persistent economic disparities by race, education, and geography.
A key theme in this year’s report is exploring the sources and effects of financial fragility across several domains, from employment to banking to managing expenses. Results from the survey show that many adults are financially vulnerable and would have difficulty handling an emergency expense as small as $400. In addition, volatile income and low savings can turn common experiences—such as waiting a few days for a bank deposit to be available—into a problem for some. At the same time, there is evidence of coping strategies, such as supplementing income through gig work and seeking financial support from family members.
The survey continues to use subjective measures and self-assessments to supplement and enhance objective measures. One example is trying to understand how close the economy is to full employment. In addition to asking adults whether they are working,the survey asks if they want to work more and what impediments they see to them working. Health limitations,a lack of available work, and family obligations are often cited as reasons for not being fully employed.