In the Wake of the Great Recession, Don’t Lose Sight of the Big Picture

Elisabeth Jacobs
Elisabeth Jacobs
Elisabeth Jacobs Senior fellow - Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population at the Urban Institute, Former Brookings Expert

March 15, 2012

While last week’s strong employment report brought welcome news about the nation’s uneven economic recovery, the American economy faces a set of broader challenges that may prove even more difficult to address.


Surveying a large body of economic data, this paper contends that many of today’s problems reflect accelerations of troublesome longer-term trends: 

  • The country is burdened by high levels of economic inequality and insecurity that the Great Recession amplified, rather than caused.
  • Upward mobility, particularly for those at the bottom of the income distribution, continues to fall short as compared to other Western nations.

Finally, this paper addresses that all was not well in the pre-recession economy and the next administration faces the dual task of nurturing a fragile economic recovery and developing a strategy that restores economic prosperity for all Americans.