Nearly half of families could not come up with $400 in an emergency, even though they are recovering from the financial crisis and shoring up their finances, according to a new survey released Friday by the Federal Reserve.
The Fed's survey found that 44 percent of respondents could not come up with $400 in a pinch without borrowing or selling something. That number has improved by 3 percentage points since 2013, when the Fed first carried out the study, but still illustrates how tight finances are for many families, a Fed official said.
"The survey findings remind us that many American households are struggling financially, including fully 40 percent of those with a high school diploma or less," said Lael Brainard, one of the Fed's governors. "More broadly, 44 percent of all respondents could not cover an unexpected $400 emergency expense or would rely on borrowing or selling something to do so."
The Fed's "Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households" for 2016, which included more than 6,000 respondents, shows that families have seen improving circumstances since 2013.
Overall, 70 percent of adults said that they were living comfortable or doing OK. That's a big increase since 2013, when just 62 percent said the same thing. Also, fewer people are skipping medical care for financial reasons, and fewer report spending more than they earn.
Nevertheless, nearly a third of adults, or 73 million people, say that they are having a tough time getting by or are just barely getting by.
Friday's report backs up other indications that the long, slow economic recovery continued to lift up many people in 2016, even as voters expressed deep dissatisfaction with government. The Census Bureau reported last year, for instance, that income growth picked up strongly in 2015, bringing many groups to record high household incomes.
The economy and jobs market appear to have improved since then. The unemployment rate averaged 5.3 percent in 2015 and has fallen to 4.4 percent in April.