Twelve percent of our interviewees have already responded to our two-year follow up survey. Email answers came from New York, New Jersey, Florida, Michigan, Rhode Island and California.
On average, the 12 interviewees have been out of work for more than two years, and the majority of them remain unemployed or severely underemployed.
All 12 of these interviewees now have a lower standard of living than they did before they lost their job as a consequence of the Great Recession, and most of them do not expect to regain the financial health they had attained before they experienced joblessness.
One of the 12 has been able to return to a full-time job with benefits, although she is making two-thirds of her former salary.
One became an entrepreneur and founded her own company.
Three are working as independent contractors without benefits at a rate of pay 33 to 50 percent less than they earned previously.
Two are working at one or more part-time jobs without benefits. They are earning a small fraction of their prior salaries.
One, who did return to work full-time after his initial job loss, decided to voluntarily retire, cut back on his spending and live on his savings and investments.
One, who receives Social Security, is still interviewing and seeking full-time employment.
Three are currently not employed for serious personal or familial health reasons.
We asked our interviewees to comment on the American Dream in the follow up survey and here’s one response:
“You know, as a kid of the 60’s, the “American Dream” never resonated for me. If anything, the American Dream is defined for me by something Bill Clinton used to say about working hard and playing by the rules and getting ahead. I’ve worked hard, I’ve worked pretty much non stop since I was in my late teens (breaks for college and a few years as a stay at home mom). I played by the rules, paid my taxes, blah blah blah. I was a good employee, was appreciated for the work I did with support, praise and monetary reward and my lifestyle increased as my pay increased. I never cheated anyone to get ahead, never played games with other people’s lives (banks and sub-prime mortgage-backed securities – I’m pointing at you!) and still I was whacked upside the head. I’m so lucky to have suffered as little from my jobless experience as I did, but I pay constant attention to jobless rates and news, knowing that I still have friends that haven’t been able to turn it around. The American Dream should be that we all have the right and the chance to get ahead by working hard and playing by the rules.”