As many families recover from financial hits suffered during the Great Recession, a new study coauthored by a Kansas University professor illustrates the financial crisis’s lasting effects on young people.
Assistant professor of social welfare at KU Terri Friedline coauthored a study suggesting children raised in households that saw net worth declines during the recession continue to feel the effects into young adulthood.
Friedline and the other authors mapped the patterns in household net worth over a ten-year span from 1999 to 2009 and analyzed the impact on youth raised in those households.
“Coming out of a time of high unemployment, young adults were hit particularly hard by loss in savings and higher student loans,” Friedline said. “They’re at a real financial disadvantage for being able to start out well in that period of life that’s so important for the rest of the life course.”
The researchers studied the financial stability of young adults raised in the 31 percent of households that experienced a stark decrease in net worth and those of the 69 percent that maintained high net worth.
On average, children of the households that experienced net worth decline grew up to have only about $300 in savings — 10 times less than the amount of their peers raised in fiscally stable households.
Between graduations and job searches, young adulthood is a fiscally tumultuous time. And without a safety net of savings, Friedline said it is even more difficult to gain independence.
“Take a young adult transitioning out of their household who has $300 saved,” Friedline said. “That’s usually not enough money to rent your first apartment. It might cover the first month’s cable and phone bills, but it doesn’t go much beyond that. “
The best way to make sure a child’s financial future will be bright may be as simple as purchasing a piggy bank. Friedline said the study's findings emphasize the importance of encouraging children, especially those in low-income families, to begin saving money at a young age.
“Financially, young adults are generally in a pretty weak place, and especially in times of a recession,” Friedline said, “so starting that savings process early can essentially help them to weather some of those effects.“
Friedline's study will be published in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues and is available online at http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10834-013-9379-7.