The results of the 2016 Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking reflect the continued modest improvements in the U.S. economy. Overall, more people report that they are doing okay or living comfortably financially, more people are saving at least a portion of their income, and fewer people are ill-prepared for modest emergencies that may arise. There also has been a continued increase in the share of adults reporting that they have a bank account and in the share who feel that credit is available to them should they desire it. Although these improvements are not always substantial relative to results observed in 2015, they do reflect a continuation of the positive trajectory observed in recent years.

However, despite these improvements, several areas of concern remain for some American families. Of particular note are the nearly one-fourth of adults who do not expect to be able to pay their current month's bills in full, the 19 percent of non-retirees age 60 or older with no retirement savings, and the 9 percent of recently moved renters who report that eviction or the threat of an eviction contributed to their move.

Additionally, not all demographic groups are faring equally well in the economy. When considering the level of financial challenges observed in the survey across demographic groups, racial and ethnic minorities, respondents with less education, and those from modest socioeconomic backgrounds all exhibit greater rates of financial challenges than do white adults, individuals with higher levels of education, or those coming from more-advantaged financial circumstances. Among other factors, this can be observed through the different rates of college attendance by family background; the different rental experiences, eviction rates, and rates of income volatility by race and ethnicity; and the different levels of predictability in work schedules and rates of emergency savings by level of education. Considering the recent trajectory of well-being, in addition to the level, the survey also observes that the pace of improvement in recent years has been slower across several dimensions for those with a high school degree or less, and particularly among white adults with a high-school degree or less.

Beyond simply tracking the financial well-being of American families, the survey also highlights some of the barriers to economic advancement and decisions underlying economic outcomes--which may help in guiding effective tools to overcome any obstacles that may exist. For example, among young adults who do not attend or complete college, while the cost of college or a need to earn money is often the barrier to completion, child care responsibilities played a role for one-fifth of young women who do not obtain a degree. Or, among young adults who are living with their parents, most are doing so to save money, but many are also doing so either to provide financial assistance or to care for sick or elderly relatives. These, and other, motivations underlie the decisions that lead to the outcomes observed. By both monitoring financial outcomes and more fully considering how financial decisions are formed, the results of this survey can help to establish a more informed picture of the financial status of American families.

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Last Update: June 14, 2017