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Business leaders see U.S. unprepared for economic downturn

New study says it reflects larger underlying problem of political gridlock and need for less-partisan election system

Source | |  Christina Pazzanese

Those feeling bullish about the U.S. economy have lots to justify their optimism. The stock market and job creation are high, and unemployment and interest rates are low. The nation has logged more than a decade of aggregate growth since the 2008 Great Recession, with January marking 127 straight months of expansion, a historic milestone.

But new research from Harvard Business School sees trouble ahead. Unlike in past periods of sustained growth, America has “squandered” the opportunity presented by the recovery to address structural shortcomings in the economy and inequities in the culture ahead of the inevitable cyclical downturn, said Jan W. Rivkin, C. Roland Christensen Professor of Business Administration at HBS.

A survey of HBS alumni found many “quite worried” about the country’s future and its continued ability to compete in the global marketplace. Nearly half (48 percent) expected the trajectory for American firms and workers to decline over the next three years, according to the latest findings from the U.S. Competitiveness Project. Fewer than a third (31 percent) believe things will improve for either firms or workers.

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