The real spending power of household incomes has fallen between 6% and 9% in the past three years, a top local economist has revealed.
John Simpson said families now have less disposable income, which has caused a dip in the living standards of many.
With less demand for goods and services, the economic downturn has been exacerbated and the future prosperity of Northern Ireland threatened.
Consumers need not look too far for evidence, given the level of high street shop closures.
Women have been one of the main casualties of the recession, according to the Women's Resource and Development Agency (WRDA).
Mr Simpson said he doesn't expect this trend to be reversed in the near future. "We have now, for the first time in the last 30-40 years, had a reduction in living standards. It's a hit, not a wobble."
Mr Simpson said the Northern Ireland economy was still contracting and that many people had lost their jobs as a result.
"The question is whether we will start to see a recovery in 2012."