Recovery from the recession remains uneven

This week marks the 10-year anniversary of the beginning of the Great Recession in 2008. The New York Times is doing special coverage of this milestone with a variety of articles analyzing those 10 years from multiple angles.

Two of today’s articles in particular caught my eye because of the juxtaposition in who they profile and how the recession has affected those different groups.

The first article, “The Great Recession Knocked Them Down. Only Some Got Back Up Again,” follows up with several people the Times interviewed near the beginning of the recession. All of them had suffered significant losses with the start of the recession – losing jobs, homes, stability. As the title suggests, this follow-up article is not a glowing story of redemption for everyone. Though some people profiled in the article have regained some measure of stability, nearly everyone described some way in which their life remains more precarious than before, and several are still struggling quite actively.

The other article, “The Housing Bubble Burst All Over Reality TV,” looks at how the recession affected home-remodeling television shows. It finds that, after the recession, these shows focused on more modest remodeling projects, often flipping houses acquired through foreclosure rather than focusing on million-dollar condos. It is interesting, however, to think about how the stars of these reality TV shows were able to profit from the recession – turning foreclosed homes into an asset while their former owners, like the people in the first article, struggled to piece together a living.

I think the contrast of these two articles starkly illustrates the uneven ways in which the Recession affected different communities, and the fact that these uneven impacts continue to resonate. The person from the first article who came through the recession least scathed spent the recession in graduate school with financial support from his parents, while the former blue-collar worker continues struggling to find consistent work and may never be able to retire.

Meanwhile, the people mentioned in the reality TV article seem to be operating on an entirely different plane in which the financial crash boosted them into stardom and wealth. The Recession highlighted that the economy functions differently for people in different strata, and the recovery from it has only reinforced this. Those who were already at the top of the economic ladder have returned there or climbed even higher, while many of the rest of us continue to struggle with less than before.