Perceptions of Economic Insecurity: Evidence from the Survey of Economic Expectations

Jeff Dominitz, Charles F. Manski

NBER Working Paper No. 5690
Issued in July 1996
NBER Program(s):Labor Studies

We have recently initiated the Survey of Economic Expectations (SEE) to learn how Americans perceive their near-term futures. This paper uses SEE data on over two thousand labor force participants interviewed in 1994 and 1995 to describe how Americans in the labor force perceive the risk of near-term economic misfortune. We measure economic insecurity through responses to questions eliciting subjective probabilities of three events in the year ahead: absence of health insurance, victimization by burglary, and job loss. With item response rates exceeding 98 percent, respondents clearly are willing to answer the expectations questions and they appear to do so in a meaningful way. Using the responses to classify individuals as relatively secure, relatively insecure, and highly insecure, we find that respondents with a high risk of one adverse outcome tend also to perceive high risks of the other outcomes. Economic insecurity tends to decline with age and with schooling. Black respondents perceive much greater insecurity than do whites, especially among males. Within the period 1994-1995, we find some time-series variation in insecurity but no clear trends. We find that expectations and realizations of health insurance coverage and of jobs tend to match up quite closely, but respondents substantially overpredict the risk of burglary.

download in pdf format
   (1263 K)

email paper

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w5690

Published: Dominitz, Jeff and Charles F. Manski. "Perceptions of Economic Insecurity: Evidence From the Survey of Economic Expectations." The Public Opinion Quarterly 61, 2 (Summer 1997): 261-287.

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded* these:
Manski and Straub w6908 Worker Perceptions of Job Insecurity in the Mid-1990s: Evidence from the Survey of Economic Expectations
Dominitz and Manski w4937 Using Expectations Data to Study Subjective Income Expectations
Dominitz and Manski w9926 How Should We Measure Consumer Confidence (Sentiment)? Evidence from the Michigan Survey of Consumers
Dominitz and Manski w4936 Eliciting Student Expectations of the Returns to Schooling
Dominitz and Manski w11313 Measuring and Interpreting Expectations of Equity Returns
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us