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The Financial Crisis from the Family's Perspective: Evidence from the 2007–2009 SCF Panel


  • Invited paper.

  • The analysis and conclusions set forth are those of the authors and do not indicate concurrence by other members of the research staff or the Board of Governors or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The authors thank research staff at the Board of Governors for helpful comments. The authors are grateful to staff at NORC involved in collecting the data and to the survey respondents who generously shared their information for research purposes.


This paper examines changes in families' finances as captured in the 2007–2009 Survey of Consumer Finances panel. The broad contours of changes in families' assets, debts, and wealth align with changes in the corresponding aggregate measures, but the microdata from the panel highlight substantial variation in families' experiences between 2007 and 2009. Although more than 60% of families saw their wealth decline over the two-year period, a sizable fraction experienced gains in wealth, while some families' financial situations saw little change on net. The shifts in wealth do not appear to be correlated in a simple way with families' characteristics. Instead, the patterns of mixed losses, gains, and modest shifts in wealth generally hold within groups defined by demographic characteristics or by 2007 wealth or income. On the whole, changes in wealth appear to stem from changes in asset values rather than from changes in portfolio composition or debt levels.