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The middle class experienced a six-fold increase in economic stress as a result of the recession

A new ERSI study examines the experience of economic stress in families with children as a result of the recession.

Image: WAYHOME studio via Shutterstock

THE RECESSION HAD a stronger economic stress impact, in relative terms, on families that had initially been more advantaged in terms of income, social class or family type, according to research compiled by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

The study examines the experience of economic stress in families with children as a result of the recession.

Growing Up in Ireland tracks the development and well-being of the same children and family over time. The ESRI study used the 1998 cohort, who were interviewed in 2007-2008, when the children were nine years old, and again in 2011-2012 when the child was 13. By using both pools of research, the economic stress was measured before and after the recession.

The findings reveal that 94% of families reported being affected by the recession, with 23% “very significantly” affected.

Among those most affected, most experienced a reduction in earnings and/or social welfare payments and one in four experienced loss of employment.

There was a significant increase in the percentage experiencing economic stress, from 8% in 2007-2008 to 23% in 2011-2012.

Family social classes

Looking at the change across social classes, income groups and family types, the overall pattern is broadly one where the largest absolute increase was experienced by the most vulnerable.

For example, the report found that the unskilled social class experienced a 21% increase in economic stress while the professional and managerial social class had a 10% increase.

However, in relative terms, this amounts to a six-fold increase for the professional and managerial social class – because they started from such a low level of risk – compared to “only” a doubling for the unskilled social class.

An absolute change is a difference made over a period of time. A relative change is an absolute change as a percentage of the value of the change.

Focusing on family time, the major contrast was between single parent and couple families.

Unsurprisingly, the largest risk in economic stress was experienced by single parents, while it was lower for couples with one to two children.

While the absolute increase was similar between these two groups of families, the relative increase was four-fold for couples with one to two children, compared to a doubling of risk for single parents.

The report found that, overall, the recession had a strong impact, in relative terms, on the groups that had initially been more advantaged in terms of income, social class or family type.

Read: Being overweight or obese is ‘major health problem’, particularly among children from low-income families

More: Almost 7% of women earn the minimum wage, compared to less than 3% of men

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