There is a great divide in the economic outlook of the 18% of the population earning $100,000 or more and the 50% earning $50,000 or less, the Consumer Reports Sentiment Index shows.

The affluent earning $100,000 or more have had a positive outlook since February 2010. Since then, sentiment among this group has continued to climb to a two-year high of 54.8.

But for those earning $50,000 or less, sentiment bottomed out in October of 2009. While their outlook has been slowing improving since, then, it remains in negative territory.

“We are seeing a tale of two very different recoveries,” said Ed Farrell, a director of survey research at the Consumer Reports National Research Center. “While things have been improving for the wealthiest Americans for some time, lower-income families still have very little to be positive about.”

The Consumer Reports Trouble Tracker Index, a monthly measure of eight financial troubles such as the ability to afford healthcare and missed mortgage payments, shows that financial suffering among lower-income Americans has been three times the level of those earning $100,000 or more since the recession started.

One of the biggest disparities between the two income groups is the ability to afford medical coverage and prescription medicine. For the affluent, less than 5% report this is a problem. But for 25% of lower-income Americans, this has been a problem over the past four years.

Home ownership is also a vastly different tale for the two groups, with 90% of the affluent owning a home, while only 50% of the less-fortunate have a home. While less than 2% of the affluent have missed a mortgage payment, that’s nearly 9% for the lower-income folks.

Employment opportunities is another big problem. For those earning $50,000 or less, in 23 of the past 24 months, they have reported fewer jobs being created than being cut. But for those $100,000+ wage earners, employment has hardly been an issue. In fact, they say the economy is adding more jobs than it is losing.

The Consumer Reports Retail Index also shows that spending for the lower-earners has been stagnant since June 2009; the affluent have been largely been responsible for any growth in sales.



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