FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                 Date: July 16, 2001

                                                Contact: Richard Schuldt, director, 217/206-6591

Sean O. Hogan, Ph.D., assistant director, 217/206-6591

Illinoisans See Worsening Economy. Many report holding off on major purchases.

Over the last nine months, Illinoisans say increasingly that they are seeing weakening in both the state and national economies. A survey recently conducted by the University of Illinois at Springfield finds that three out of five Illinoisans (58%) say the national economy is worse off than a year ago. Last October, two in five (40%) people said the national economy was in decline. Closer to home, half of the survey participants said that the Illinois economy is worse off, as compared to 18% who thought so last fall.

Though Illinoisans tend to say that the national and state economies are deteriorating, more than half (52%) said their personal financial picture is the same as it was last summer, and one-third (33%) said it was worse and 16% said they were in a better financial position.

            The telephone survey consists of 519 adult participants from randomly selected Illinois households. The Survey Research Office of the Institute for Public Affairs at UIS conducted the survey June 6 through July 7. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Consumer spending plans: With the predominant belief that the economy is weakening, more than three-quarters (77%) of the respondents said that over the next six months they have no plans to make major purchases, such as a home remodeling, or buying a new car. At the same time, more than a quarter (27%) of those interviewed said they have considered, but decided against making a major purchase. Only 2% of those polled said they plan to proceed with expensive purchases.

Household income and evaluations of the economy& personal finances: There is an interesting pattern between the reported household income of survey participants and their opinions on these economic topics. On one hand, respondents with highest income are most likely to say the national economy is in decline, they also are most likely to say they are personally better off financially. Our respondents in the lowest income category, while most likely to say they are worse off, also are most likely to say the national economy is about the same as it was a year ago.

Seeing decline in economy goes up with income. While majorities in all income categories see a worsening national economy, those with higher household incomes do so most often. Seven out of 10 (71%) respondents with household incomes of more than $60,000 say the national economy is worsening, while only half of those with incomes below $15,000 say so. Slightly fewer than 60% of those with incomes of $30,000 to $60,000 say the national economy is worse off and 55% of those with incomes between $15,000 and $30,000 see the nation’s economy deteriorating. Middle-income respondents ($30,000-$60,000) most frequently say the economy is better (37%), and 14% of the low-income respondents are most likely to say the national economy has improved and least likely to say they have seen a decline.

Feeling better off financially goes up with income. While respondents in all income brackets tend to report that their personal financial situations are about the same as a year ago, the poorest respondents are most likely to say they are not doing as well as they did last summer (44%). Conversely, the wealthiest respondents are the ones most likely to say that they are doing better (42%).

About one third of those in the $30,000-$60,000 range say things are better financially, and 13% in the $15,000-$30,000 category say their personal financial situation has improved. Fewer than one in six (14%) of the wealthiest respondents say things are worse, while about a quarter (26%) of those in the $30,000-$60,000 category report being worse off financially. One in five (21%) of those in the $15,000-$30,000 range report being in a worse financial condition. Not even 6% of those with incomes below $15,000 said their households were in a better position than last year.

As income goes down, so do spending plans. At least 2/3rd of respondents in each income category said they will not make major purchases over the coming six months. The lowest-income respondents most frequently (85%) said they have no big spending plans. About three quarters of the respondents in both the $15,000-$30,000 range and the $30,000-$60,000 range ranges said they have no big spending plans.

Additional data from the survey are available at the Survey Research Office’s website