Renters Struggle to Pay for Food, Healthcare

Affording a Thanksgiving Dinner at Home May be a Luxury for Low-Income Families

A new analysis by the Urban Institute found that renters are more likely than homeowners to struggle with paying for basic needs like food and health care, by 46 to 30 percent.

As many Americans across the country prepare to gather with family and friends next week for Thanksgiving dinner, it is important to remember that for many low-income renters and households experiencing homelessness, the expense of food may be out of reach.

Based on data from the Urban Institute’s 2017 Well-Being and Basic Needs Survey and adjusted for socioeconomic differences, the analysis shows that:

  • 30 percent of renters reported food insecurity,
  • with 13 percent reporting trouble meeting rent payments

By comparison:

  • only 19 percent of homeowners experienced food insecurity and
  • less than 9 percent missed a mortgage payment in the last year.

Although low-income homeowners generally fare better than low-income renters, nearly half of homeowners earning less than 200 percent of the federal poverty line also reported difficulties meeting basic needs.

The analysis points out that these findings add to growing evidence that “resource-strapped families face impossible decisions and trade-offs when paying for housing and basic needs like food and medical care every month.”  The cost of the food for a basic Thanksgiving meal may be out of reach for low-income households that have little money left once they pay their rent.

Whether owned or rented, housing is often people’s top monthly expense. Falling behind on housing payments can lead to severe consequences ranging from a damaged credit score to eviction. What is less clear is how the monthly pressure to pay for housing relates to the ability to pay for other basic needs, such as food and medical care.

From a November 1, 2018, Urban Institute Urban Wire blog post.

Many low-income families are forced to skip meals because they just don’t have the money for food.

For those of us who will be fortunate enough to gather together on November 22 with family and friends for a Thanksgiving meal in a warm home, please remember to be thankful for the food in front of you and just as importantly, the roof over your head.

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