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Survey: Nearly Half of All Americans Struggle to Make Ends Meet

November 23, 2011 by Brett Wilkins in Rich & Poor with 0 Comments

A new survey of government and industry data has found that nearly half of all Americans suffer from economic insecurity and do not have enough money to cover their basic expenses like housing, health care and food.

According to Reuters, the survey, conducted by the advocacy group Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW), found that 45% of Americans live in households that struggle to make ends meet. Based on 2010 census data, that means 138,000,000 Americans– roughly the equivalent of the entire population of Russia– are living on the edge of economic despair.

The survey only considered essential expenses such as housing, food and health care. It did not include recreation, vacations, college tuition or other non-essential costs.

Women fared particularly poorly in the survey, possibly because the median income of U.S. women is only 70% of what men earn. The stats for single women are downright alarming: 60% of them live in economic insecurity.

Also: 25% of full-time workers, 22% of adults with children who work full-time and have a partner who works full-time, and 21% of households headed by a college graduate are economically insecure.

“In the past, threats to economic security were supposedly clear — dropping out of high school, being a single parent or having a large family. In today’s economy, we cannot assume we know who lacks security,” the study says.

“A chief cause of economic insecurity is 1970s level wages that fail to cover modern expenses.”

“Nearly half of our nation’s families cannot cover the costs of basic expenses even when they do have a job,”  Donna Addkison, president and CEO of WOW told Reuters. “Under these conditions, cuts to unemployment insurance … and other programs families are relying on right now would push them from crisis to catastrophe.”

“This is a wake-up call for Congress, for our state policy-makers, really for all of us,” she said.

But with the percentage of Congressional millionaires  roughly the same (47%) as the percentage of economically insecure Americans, it is highly unlikely that Washington lawmakers will heed that wake-up call.

And so the ranks of America’s poor will continue to swell. One in six Americans, or around 47,800,000 of us (more than the entire population of Spain), is poor. One in seven relies on government food assistance. Fully 37% of young families are poor. There are also staggering racial disparities in wealth distribution: although 21% of American children are living in poverty, among hispanic and black children that percentage rises to 32% and 38% respectively.

Meanwhile, the income of the nation’s richest 1% has soared 275% in the last 30 years, with many millionaires and corporations paying little or no federal income tax at all.

You wouldn’t know any of this from watching Congress trying to slash spending on desperately needed social programs while perpetuating tax breaks for the richest Americans and corporations.

And people wonder what ‘Occupy Wall Street’ is all about?

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