Life at the Edge: Precarity and Economic Insecurity in Illinois and the United States
reportposted on 2021-08-06, 17:35 authored by Cedric Herring
This report examines precarity and economic insecurity in the United States and Illinois. Precarity is a condition that exists when there is little predictability or security with respect to a person’s material well-being or psychological welfare. The author provides an overview of patterns that undergird precarity by presenting trends in economic well-being before, during and after the Great Recession.
The Great Recession had a human toll that went beyond the worsening financial status of families. It sapped many Americans of their hope and optimism about the future. It took from them the idea that they could achieve the American Dream. The realities of economic crisis dashed the dreams of millions. It led people to be afraid, angry, worried, and even outraged. It made people feel as if they were living on the edge. In short, it has led to precarity. Precarity has far-reaching social effects. One of these is the decline in the feeling of being part of the national social collective. Another is that it decomposes social bonds. The decline of secure employment has also produced terrified reactions from those who fear that values such as trust, community spirit, and the importance of work are collapsing. Of course, there are also psychological and emotional effects of precarity. Anxiety about slipping in status becomes a general social condition. Another effect is psychological over-arousal or a sense of relative deprivation. And a final invisible effect of precarity is widespread psychological pain. There are also demographic and social effects of precarity. For example, people are less likely to have children when their finances and relationships are insecure. Young adults are less likely to leave the homes of their parents. And, perhaps people are less likely to take reasonable risks that could improve their lives.