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Despite economic concerns, recovery efforts boost Americans’ financial well-being, views on higher education explored in latest Fed survey

June 28, 2022

Although Americans perceptions on the economy dipped late last year, their financial well-being increased and hit its highest level since 2013, when the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System survey began. The results of the latest wide-ranging survey, reported in the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2021, also revealed the share of prime-age adults not working because they could not find work had returned to pre-pandemic levels; more adults would be able to cover a $400 emergency expense should one arise than at any point in the survey history; and, 15 percent of workers said they switched jobs in the previous year, with 60 percent of those reporting that the new job was better overall. The number of student loan borrowers who are behind on their payments declined compared to prior to the pandemic and self-reported financial well-being rose strongly with education.

The Survey of Household Economics and Decisionmaking (SHED) was fielded from Oct. 29 through Nov. 22, 2021, and included new questions on consumer experiences with emerging products such as cryptocurrencies and “Buy Now Pay Later” products. It found that while most adults did not use cryptocurrencies in the previous year, of those that did, its use as an investment was more common than use for transactions or purchases.

More than half of adults who went to college said the lifetime financial benefits of their education exceeded the costs, although one in five reported that the costs are higher, and the report noted that the feelings on the value of education had changed little in recent years.  Among those who went to college but did not complete a degree, just 31 percent said the benefits of their education exceeded the cost, but that fraction rose to 46 percent of those completing an associate degree and 67 percent of those with at least a bachelor’s degree.

When looking back on education decisions, 67 percent of those without a college degree and 61 percent of those with an associate degree said they would like to have completed more education. Just 24 percent of those who studied engineering said they would have chosen a different field compared to 48 percent of those who studied humanities and arts.

higher ed, finance, survey, federal reserve