Defining the American Dream

Could You Come Up With An Extra $2000 In 30 Days?

Posted on Sunday, March 20, 2011

What would you do if you had thirty days to find an extra $2,000?
That's the question posed by the Brookings Institute in a recent paper, "Financially Fragile Households: Evidence and Implications." Their findings, Brookings says, indicate an alarming inability among U.S. families to deal with ordinary financial shocks, such as a major car repairs or large co-payments.
Nearly half of those surveyed answered that they could "probably or certainly not" figure out a way to find the money, with one in four saying they probably could. Only the final one-fourth said they definitely could find a way to make the payment.
Among those that could cope, what means did they use? The Brookings Institute:
While savings is used most often [to come up with the money], relying on family and friends, using formal and alternative credit, increasing work hours, and selling items are also used frequently to deal with emergencies, especially for some subgroups.
Surprisingly, while those with higher levels of income and education generally do cope better, it's not a hard-and-fast rule, with nearly one quarter of $100k-$150k households reporting they wouldn't be able to find $2000. Those who had suffered substantial losses of wealth during the recession also said they couldn't cope at a higher rate than people of comparable incomes that hadn't suffered.
Still, Brookings finds the results to be predominately socially stratified. Among African Americans of all income levels, for example, 38 percent said they could not obtain the money. That's roughly the same rate answered by the currently unemployed (41 percent), and those who obtained a high school diploma or less (40 percent).

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