Editor's Note: In this interview, Mr. Hurd alternately refers to the U.S. stock market reaching its lowest point in both March 2008 and March 2009. The correct date is March 2009.


(March 2010) Most of what we hear in the media about how the recession is affecting individuals and families in the United States is based on broad population surveys. These tell us what has happened since the recession started but there is not as much reporting based on data tied to the events that led up to the recession. However, data from The American Life Panel shed some light on how the recession and events leading up to the recession have affected Americans. The American Life Panel is maintained by the RAND Corporation and consists of approximately 2,500 respondents who are regularly interviewed over the Internet. Michael Hurd is director of the Center for the Study of Aging and a senior economist at the RAND Corporation. He has studied the economics of aging and the elderly; savings, wealth, and retirement; Social Security; and U.S. labor markets. Michael Hurd's collaborator and equal partner in the American Life Panel financial crisis research is Susann Rohwedder at RAND, and the financial crisis surveys are funded by National Institute on Aging and Social Security Administration.

According to Hurd, the current recession is the worst since the Great Depression because it has affected three major sectors of the economy: housing, the stock market, and the labor market. In this interview, Hurd discusses how the declines in each of these sectors have affected older Americans, the kinds of data we need to look at to assess the effect of the events that led up to the recession, and who has such data.