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Three years into the Obama administration, and 29 months after the putative end of the Great Recesion, only seven percent of Americans have returned to the income they enjoyed before the recession. A new study finds fully 69 percent of Americans have experienced devastating economic conditions during Barack Obama’s time in office. Many have forsaken medical treatment, reduced their food budgets, borrowed money, or sold possessions to stay afloat. And a sizable percentage has no hope that its lot will ever change.

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The study, which was released today, is entitled “Categorizing the Unemployed by the Impact of the Recession” and was conducted for the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University.

Its authors surveyed nearly 4,000 Americans in August 2009, March 2010, November 2010, and August 2011.

Fully 69 percent of respondents ranked themselves “Downsized,” “Devastated,” or “Totally Wrecked.”

The survey divided the results into five categories:

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  • Workers who have MADE IT BACK consider themselves in excellent, good, or fair financial shape and have experienced no change in their standard of living due to the recession.
  • People ON THEIR WAY BACK have largely experienced a minor change to their standard of living, but say the change is temporary. They also consider themselves in excellent, good, or fair financial shape.
  • Workers who have been DOWNSIZED meet one of three conditions; they have experienced: a minor change that is permanent; a minor change that is temporary, but they are in poor financial shape; or a major change in their standard of living that is temporary and they are in at least fair financial shape.
  • Workers classified as DEVASTATED have experienced a major change to their lifestyle due to the recession. They can be either in poor financial shape and think the change is temporary, or in fair financial shape but think this change is permanent.
  • Workers that have been TOTALLY WRECKED by this recession have experienced a major change to their lifestyle that is permanent and are in poor financial shape.

The largest percentage of people, 33 percent, described themselves as “downsized.” Another 21 percent said they had been “devastated,” and 15 percent judged their household “totally wrecked.”

More than twice as many people said they had experienced a major, permanent lifestyle change that left them in poor shape than had returned to the pre-recession status quo.

Today’s findings dovetail with a recent study conducted by former Census Bureau officials Gordon W. Green Jr. and John F. Coder, which found that President Obama’s policies caused the greatest decline in U.S. wealth in decades. They estimated the national inflation-adjusted median income had fallen by 9.8 percent since December 2007, with two-thirds of the decline coming during the Obama administration.

An estimated 25 or 26 million Americans are unemployed or underemployed.

Two-thirds of the lowest two groups in the new Rutgers study (devastated and totally wrecked) borrowed money from friends or family, reduced their food bill, and sold possessions to pay the bills. Sixty percent of them cut back on medical visits — as did 23 percent of those in the top two groups (“on their way back” and “made it back”).

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