California During the Great Recession: It Could Have Been Worse

It wasn’t really as bad as it seemed.

That is the take-away from a new study out of USC called “California Roller Coaster: Income and Housing in Boom and Bust, 1990-2010.”

The report finds that conditions in California mostly improved since 2000. So despite what economists and politicians refer to as the Great Recession – and despite the soaring poverty and crushing unemployment – California and Los Angeles fared better than the nation as a whole.

Dowell Myers is Director of the USC Population Dynamics Research Group and was the lead author on the report.

"It’s surprising to see how well Los Angeles has fared despite greater losses that the nation in housing prices and employment," Myers said. "This is the opposite of the 1990s recession when Los Angeles was hit so much harder than the nation."

Some highlights from the report include:

  • The poverty rate in LA peaked in 1993 at 23.8% as opposed to 16% in 2009.
  • Household incomes in LA were above the national average by 8.3%
  • Young adults fared the worst.
  • Nearly 20% of 16-24 year olds looking for work were unemployed in 2009.
  • Homeownership fell 5.4% from 2006 to 2009 for 25 to 44 year olds.

Myers believes the housing statistics could have far reaching impact.

“The younger generation was especially damaged by this cycle of events and some of them may have been permanently dislodged to the status of renters,” he said.

A full copy of the study is available on USC's website.

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