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Nearly Half of Americans Can’t Afford Middle Class Basics

During an era of soaring corporate profits and stock prices at record highs, nearly half of American households can’t afford middle class basic necessities according to a new study from the United Way.

Nearly 51 million American households can’t afford middle class basics, including housing, food, child care, health care and transportation, a new United Way study has found. “

“People are struggling to make their ends meet. Not hard to see why problematic substance use and suicide are at crisis levels h/t @UnitedWay ALICE study https://www.unitedwayalice.org/by-state

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The study found a surprisingly large number of working U.S. households with incomes above the official poverty line, but below the cost of paying ordinary expenses. Using the most recent data available, they found out that there are  34.7 million households in that group in addition to the 16.1 million households below the poverty line according to project director Stephanie Hoopes.

This means that over 50 million American households are living in or slightly above the poverty level.  These people cannot afford housing, food, child care, health care, telephones or transportation. 

The group that was analyzed in the United Way study was called ALICE — Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.  According to the report,  this group makes less than what’s needed “to survive in the modern economy.”

“Despite seemingly positive economic signs, the ALICE data shows that financial hardship is still a pervasive problem,” said Hoopes, underscoring the problems of increasing concentration of wealth in the top income levels.

The actual percentages of households affected varies greatly by state, with the highest percentage of 49% found in California, New Mexico and Hawaii  and the lowest percentage of 32% found in North Dakota.

The jobs of the ALICE group are usually child care workers, home health aides, office assistants and store clerks, who work low-paying jobs that barely allow them to survive on a subsistence level.  These people usually have little or no savings and thus are unable to afford unexpected expenses such as medical, dental or car expenses.

The study said that 66% of jobs in the United States currently pay less than $20 an hour.

This study reinforces the political positions from the left, such as those promoted by Bernie Sanders who has been discussing income discrepancies for years.  Policies from Congress, like the new tax law, have helped the rich and cut funding for government programs needed by those struggling to make it.


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