Almost Half of American’s Struggle to Pay for Basic Needs

Ten Percent of Adults Surveyed Missed a Rent or Mortgage Payment in 2017 – Basic Needs are Harder to Meet

On August 28, 2018, CBS MoneyWatch reported that “Almost half of Americans can’t pay for their basic needs.”

“Four in 10 Americans are struggling to pay for their basic needs such as groceries or housing, a problem even middle-class households confront, according to a new study from the Urban Institute.”

The report, “Material Hardship Among Nonelderly Adults and Their Families in 2017” provides research that reminds us that Americans struggling to pay for basic needs are at risk of homelessness and have a very fragile safety net.

  • Struggling to pay for basic needs means that households are often one medical crisis or layoff from being able to afford their rent or mortgage.
  • Across all income groups, 10% of adults surveyed reported missing a rent or mortgage payment.
  • And 1% reported being evicted or forced to move.

“Despite the U.S. economy being near full employment, 39.4 percent of adults between 18 and 64 years old said they experienced at least one type of material hardship in 2017, according to the study, which surveyed more than 7,500 adults about whether they had trouble paying for housing, utilities, food or health care.”

“The Urban Institute designed the study last year to get a baseline measure of hardship in anticipation of proposed cutbacks in federal safety-net programs, such as proposals to add work requirements to food stamps and Medicaid. Some states have already moved forward with such plans, such as Maine’s work requirement for its food stamp recipients.”

But the results surprised the report’s authors who “Hadn’t predicted so many middle-class families would also struggle to meet their basic needs.”

The study also found that minorities face a disparate need around meeting their basic needs. “Minorities report higher rates of hardship than whites” and “White household tend to earn more money than minority families.” This mirrors research that shows that minorities experience homelessness at higher rates than whites.

Michael Karpman is a research associate at the Urban Institute’s health Policy Center and a co-author of the report. “I hope that people will see,” said Karpman, “that even though we’re in a relatively healthy economy, a lot of families are still having difficulty meeting their basic needs for food, housing and health care.”

CBS MoneyWatch

Urban Institute Report

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