September 25, 2008

Are You Better Off in 2008 Than You Were in 2000?

23 out of 25 selected economic indicators worse now than 8 years ago

For Immediate Release: September 25, 2008
Contact: Alan Barber (202) 293-5380 x115

Washington, DC- During the final presidential debate of the 1980 election, Ronald Reagan, running against Jimmy Carter, turned to the camera and asked “Are you better off than you were four years ago?” The debate took place against a backdrop of spiraling inflation and rising unemployment. A week later, Reagan won the election by one of the largest margins in recent history. Now, with the 2008 presidential election just weeks away and the economy once again in turmoil, a new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) updates the Reagan question by comparing economic indicators in 2008 and 2000, and finds that most indicators suggest that voters are worse off now than they were eight years ago.

The report, “The Reagan Question: Are You Better Off Now Than You Were Eight Years Ago?,” uses a range of economic indicators to give voters a basis of comparison of their sense economic well-being.

“The data seem to suggest that voters are worse off today than 8 years ago,” said report author John Schmitt.  “It is hard to see how voters could answer Reagan’s question any other way.”

The study finds that 23 out of 25 indicators are worse in 2008 than they were in 2000. Some of the indicators examined included the unemployment rate, annual inflation, the “Misery Index” (the sum of the the unemployment rate and the inflation rate), job growth, wage growth, the poverty rate, the number of uninsured, college tuition costs, and gasoline prices. Of these, only inflation-adjusted median family income and productivity growth were higher in 2008 than they were in 2000.

For an opportunity to discuss and comment on the findings of the report in an online forum, please see our interactive webpage. That page also has links to the resources used to produce indicators and related material.

The full report can be found here.