The World’s Poor Have Not Recovered From the Great Recession

The economic downturn may have left a scar no recovery can heal.

National Journal
Brian Resnick
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Brian Resnick
March 18, 2014, 8:57 a.m.

In the sev­en years since the Great Re­ces­sion began, much of the world still has not re­covered. Well, per­haps na­tion­al eco­nom­ies have. But still pained in the wake of the fin­an­cial col­lapse are the world’s poor and youth. 

That’s a ma­jor takeaway from the Or­gan­iz­a­tion for Eco­nom­ic Co­oper­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment’s massive, 147-page “So­ci­ety at a Glance” re­port re­leased on Tues­day. The re­port out­lines the so­ci­et­al shifts wrought by the fin­an­cial down­turns of the last dec­ade — the widen­ing gap between the rich and the poor, ac­cel­er­at­ing youth un­em­ploy­ment, de­clin­ing fer­til­ity rates — and it pro­jects the fear that these changes will not soon dis­sip­ate.

“Some of the is­sues that con­cern us most now may fade away if we enter a peri­od of strong and sus­tained growth,” the re­port’s in­tro­duc­tion reads. “But, viewed from the present, their po­ten­tial to pro­duce un­wel­come so­cial out­comes looks wor­ry­ingly high.” 

Al­though it can be hard to gen­er­al­ize from a world­wide sur­vey, the re­port finds that, on av­er­age:

“Poorer house­holds have lost great­er shares of their in­comes than the bet­ter-off or be­nefited less in the re­cov­ery.”

“Young people are at great­er risk of poverty than be­fore the crisis.”

“The share of people who re­port that they can­not af­ford to buy enough food in­creased in 23 coun­tries, par­tic­u­larly in Greece and Hun­gary, but also in the United States.”

The re­port is also a re­mind­er that the so­cial prob­lems oc­cur­ring in Amer­ica are largely re­flec­ted around the world. While un­em­ploy­ment num­bers in the U.S. con­tin­ue to im­prove, it’s also the case that “some 48 mil­lion people in OECD coun­tries are look­ing for a job.” 

Here are five graphs of world­wide trends that stood out in the re­port.

Re­ces­sions open in­come gaps. Re­cov­er­ies don’t close them.

Young people face high un­em­ploy­ment across OECD coun­tries.


Two-in­come fam­il­ies coped bet­ter in the eco­nom­ic down­turn.


Over­all, life sat­is­fac­tion de­creased across the globe.


But it isn’t all neg­at­ive. The share of people who helped a stranger in need in­creased slightly dur­ing the crisis.


Recessions open income gaps. Recoveries don't close them.

Click for a lar­ger ver­sion.


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