Report

Not Your Grandfather's Recession—Literally

The ongoing recession has had different impacts on different age groups in America. Adults 65 and older—most of whom have already retired and downsized their lifestyles—have escaped its full fury. Adults in late middle age (50 to 64) have seen their nest eggs shrink the most and their anxieties about retirement swell the most. Younger adults (ages 18-49) have taken the worst lumps in the job market but remain relatively upbeat about their financial future.

These are the main findings of telephone survey of a nationally representative sample of 2,969 adults conducted by the Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends project from Feb. 23 to March 23, 2009.

The most compelling story to emerge from the survey is that older adults are living through what for them has been a kinder, gentler recession—relatively speaking. They are less likely than younger and middle-aged adults to say that in the past year they have cut back on spending; suffered losses in their retirement accounts; or experienced trouble paying for housing or medical care. They're more likely to report being very satisfied with their personal finances. And they're less likely to say the recession has been a source of stress in their family.

Moreover, despite the recession, three-quarters say they expect to be able to leave an inheritance for their children—even though more than half of all older adults say the recession has reduced the amount of money or property they expect to bequeath.

Read the full report Different Age Groups, Different Recessions on the Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends project Web site.