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University of Wisconsin–Madison
Poverty-related issues in the news, from the Institute for Research on Poverty

Tag: Cost of living

Cost of Living and Basic Needs

  • Many Americans struggling to get by despite strong economy, By Sarah Skidmore (AP), August 28, 2018, Chicago Sun-Times: “Despite a strong economy, about 40 percent of American families struggled to meet at least one of their basic needs last year, including paying for food, health care, housing or utilities. That’s according to an Urban Institute survey of nearly 7,600 adults that found that the difficulties were most prevalent among adults with lower incomes or health issues. But it also revealed that people from all walks of life were running into similar hardships…”
  • 40% of Americans struggle to pay for at least one basic need like food or rent, By Quentin Fottrell, August 31, 2018, MarketWatch: “Many people still struggle to pay bills — even for something as basic as food. That’s the difficult conclusion of a new report released this week by the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit policy group based in Washington, D.C., which surveyed almost 7,600 adults last December…”
  • Cost of living increasing at fastest rate in 10 years, August 10, 2018, CBS News: “Consumer prices climbed 2.9 percent in July from a year earlier, a rate of inflation that suggests Americans are earning less than a year ago despite an otherwise solid economy. The Labor Department said Friday that the consumer price index ticked up 0.2 percent in July. Annual inflation matched the 2.9 percent pace from June, which had been the highest level since February 2012. Core prices, which exclude the volatile food and energy categories, rose 0.2 percent in June and 2.4 percent from a year earlier…”

Low-Income Households and Utility Costs

High energy bills burden Atlanta’s low-income residents, By Anastaciah Ondieki, August 1, 2018, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Month after month, they come — dozens of families looking for financial assistance to keep their lights on, their air conditioning or heat running. These are the people who don’t qualify for government assistance or other local programs, said Kevin Murriel, the pastor at Cascade United Methodist Church in Fulton County. Yet, they still need help, he said, and will continue to — until some deep-seated societal and economic injustices are resolved…”


Low-Income Households and Utility Costs

Energy drain: Low-income households typically pay a higher percentage of income for utilities, By Kate Giammarise, July 9, 2018, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “Retiree William M. Williams lives on Susquehanna Street in Homewood, in a three-bedroom house. ‘This house gets real cold in the winter,’ said Mr. Williams, who retired after working as a maintenance man and ironworker. ‘You can feel the drafts coming through the doorways. … More than likely, I need some insulation’ in the attic, he said. On this recent June day, there are several people in his home — from the basement to the attic and everywhere in between — testing safety and energy efficiency measures…”

Minimum Wage

  • How big is the minimum-wage workforce in your state?, By Mike Maciag, April 25, 2018, Governing: “The last time the federal minimum wage increased, Barack Obama was only a few months into his first term as president and the country was mired in the depths of the Great Recession. Nearly nine years later, a small segment of the workforce is still earning $7.25 an hour or less. The latest Labor Department estimates indicate that just over 1.8 million hourly workers were paid at or below the federal minimum last year. While that’s a small part of the overall workforce — a mere 2.3 percent of hourly workers — it makes up a larger portion in some states…”
  • The case for raising the minimum wage keeps getting stronger, By Lydia DePillis, April 27, 2018, CNN Money: “It’s been too cold to campaign in frozen North Dakota. But as spring has crept across the state, an unusual ballot initiative is starting to emerge: One that would more than double the minimum wage, from $7.25 to $15 an hour by 2021…”

Poverty Measurement – California

Why does California have nation’s highest poverty level?, By Dan Walters, August 17, 2017, Modesto Bee: “With all the recent hoopla about California’s record-low unemployment rate and the heady prospect of its becoming No. 5 in global economic rankings, it is easy to lose sight of another salient fact: It is the nation’s most poverty-stricken state. So says the U.S. Census Bureau in its ‘supplemental measure’ of poverty, which is more accurate than the traditional measure because it takes into account not only income, but living costs…”

Cost of Living for the Urban Poor

To cut down poverty, cut down the cost of living, By Laura Bliss, August 4, 2016, City Lab: “Proportionally speaking, Americans living in poverty pay more for basic necessities. On energy bills, the poorest 20 percent of Americans spend more than seven times the share of their income than do the wealthiest. Dividing American incomes into three, households in the bottom third spend twice the portion of their incomes on transportation than the top third. High housing costs are hurting everyone—but they’re hurting poor Americans the most…”

Living Wage by Region

These are the hardest places for minimum wage workers to live, By Ana Swanson September 14, 2015, Washington Post: “You might have a rough sense that workers who earn the minimum wage in America aren’t making enough to cover the cost of a decent living. But how big is that gap really? A professor at MIT created a new interactive map that shows where it’s hardest for those earning the minimum wage to get by. Amy Glasmeier created a tool called ‘The Living Wage Calculator,’ which shows the hourly rate that an individual needs to earn to support their family for every county in the country…”

UK Cost of Living and Poor Households

300,000 more people live in poverty than previously thought, study finds, By Larry Elliott, November 4, 2014, The Guardian: “The number of people living in dire poverty in Britain is 300,000 more than previously thought due to poorer households facing a higher cost of living than the well off, according to a study released on Wednesday. A report produced by the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that soaring prices for food and fuel over the past decade have had a bigger impact on struggling families who spend more of their budgets on staple goods. By contrast, richer households had been the beneficiaries of the drop in mortgage rates and lower motoring costs…”

Poverty and Living Standards in the US

Changed life of the poor: better off, but far behind, By Annie Lowrey, April 30, 2014, New York Times: “Is a family with a car in the driveway, a flat-screen television and a computer with an Internet connection poor? Americans — even many of the poorest — enjoy a level of material abundance unthinkable just a generation or two ago. That indisputable economic fact has become a subject of bitter political debate this year, half a century after President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a war on poverty…”

College Students and Food Insecurity

More college students battle hunger as education and living costs rise, By Tara Bahrampour, April 9, 2014, Washington Post: “When Paul Vaughn, an economics major, was in his third year at George Mason University, he decided to save money by moving off campus. He figured that skipping the basic campus meal plan, which costs $1,575 for 10 meals a week each semester, and buying his own food would make life easier. But he had trouble affording the $50 a week he had budgeted for food and ended up having to get two jobs to pay for it…”

Social Security Benefits

Social Security raise to be lowest in years, By Stephen Ohlemacher, October 13, 2013, USA Today: “For the second straight year, millions of Social Security recipients, disabled veterans and federal retirees can expect historically small increases in their benefits come January. Preliminary figures suggest a benefit increase of roughly 1.5%, which would be among the smallest since automatic increases were adopted in 1975, according to an analysis by The Associated Press.Next year’s raise will be small because consumer prices, as measured by the government, haven’t gone up much in the past year…”

Poverty in New Jersey

  • Poverty in N.J. reaches 52-year high, new report shows, By Brent Johnson, September 8, 2013, Star-Ledger: “Poverty in New Jersey continued to grow even as the national recession lifted, reaching a 52-year high in 2011, according to a report released today. The annual survey by Legal Services of New Jersey found 24.7 percent of the state’s population — 2.1 million residents — was considered poor in 2011. That’s a jump of more than 80,000 people — nearly 1 percent higher than the previous year and 3.8 percent more than pre-recession levels…”
  • Poverty hitting 50-year highs in N.J., By Alfred Lubrano, September 8, 2013, Philadelphia Inquirer: “Poverty in New Jersey has reached levels not seen in 50 years, as more than two million people from Sussex to Cape May Counties founder in a deepening struggle to keep themselves and their families fed, housed, and healthy. The troubling findings, part of a report spotlighting poverty in 2011, were released Sunday by Legal Services of New Jersey’s Poverty Research Institute. The report is called ‘Poverty Benchmarks 2013…'”

Self-Sufficiency Standard – California

  • Report: Bay Area cost of living up 18 percent since 2008, By Matt O’Brien, October 4, 2011, Contra Costa Times: “By one measure, the cost of living for Bay Area families soared 18 percent since the onset of the recession in 2008. As wages remained stagnant and more residents lost their jobs, the price of rental housing, transportation, child care and other basic needs kept rising, according to an Oakland-based national research group that wants California to overhaul how it measures the economic well-being of its residents…”
  • Report: Basic cost of living soars in Bay Area, By Carolyn Said, October 5, 2011, San Francisco Chronicle: “Raju and Simmi Kumar were busy Tuesday afternoon arranging multihued shawls, skirts, handbags and tablecloths imported from their native India in their new Mission District store, Simmi Boutique. ‘We want to help the poor people back in India who work for us to make these beautiful things,’ Raju Kumar said. Here in the United States, their family of five – they have three children, ages 13, 14 and 19 – struggles to make ends meet also. ‘It’s very tight, let me tell you,’ he said. ‘We never, ever go out, we always cook all three meals at home. But expenses are going all the way up.’ A report released Tuesday underscored how the Kumar family reflects the realities of the working poor. According to a formula called the Self-Sufficiency Standard, a family of four (with two adults, one preschooler and one school-age child) in the nine-county Bay Area now needs $74,341 a year to get by, compared with $62,517 three years ago…”

Poverty Rates in Oil-Producing Counties – North Dakota

Many live in poverty in oil country due to high rent, food prices, By Teri Finneman, August 14, 2011, Dickinson Press: “In one of the state’s wealthiest counties, the line of people waiting for the food pantry to open shows another side of the state’s oil boom story. The oil and gas industry has contributed to the state’s nationally known prosperity and created high-paying jobs in western North Dakota. But those who don’t make oilfield wages face the boom’s negative side effects, including the increasing cost of rent, services and goods. ‘I think the common misconception is that since we are in what most people call ‘oil country,’ that everybody is wealthy,’ said Holly Flatau of the Great Plains Food Bank in Fargo. ‘What it’s actually caused is a greater gap in those that are wealthy and those who are not. It’s harder for people that aren’t wealthy to make it on their own…'”

World Food Prices and Poor Nations

Food prices set to stay high, says UN food agency, June 7, 2011, BBC News: “Global food prices will remain high and volatile throughout this year and into next despite record food production. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) twice yearly Food Outlook analysis says rising demand will absorb most of the higher output. It says its index of food prices in May was at 232, only five points below February’s record high of 237. The FAO says higher food prices could mean poor countries will see food import costs rise by up to 30%. That would mean them spending 18% of their total import bills on food this year, compared with the world average of 7%. The organisation says the next few months will be critical in determining how major crops will fare this year…”

Minimum Wage and Economic Security – Michigan

New study: You can’t live on minimum wage, By L.L. Brasier, May 30, 2011, Detroit Free Press: “Cameo Thomas of Jackson works two jobs as a nursing home aide to support her 4-year-old twin sons. One job pays $9.50 an hour, the other $13.05. Sometimes she works 60 hours a week to make ends meet — hard physical labor, most of it on her feet. ‘Sometimes I get off work and think, ‘Man, I’m going to need a new pair of shoes,” the 23-year-old said. Working harder and longer may not be enough to support a family in Michigan, particularly for employees in low-paying jobs such as retail sales, clerical work and home health care, according to a new study released today…”

Housing Affordability

  • Minnesota rental affordability worst in Midwest, May 3, 2011, Alexandria Echo Press: “According to a national report released Monday, a Minnesota family must have 2.2 minimum wage earners working full-time – or one person working 87 hours per week at minimum wage- to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment in Minnesota. Of the 12 states in the Midwest, Minnesota ranks the worst for rental affordability among low-wage workers. The report, Out of Reach 2011, was jointly released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), a Washington, D.C.-based housing policy organization, and for Minnesota, the Minnesota Housing Partnership. The report provides housing affordability data for every state, metro area, and county in the country…”
  • N.J. rental costs among highest in the nation, By Sarah Portlock, May 3, 2011, Star-Ledger: “A household in New Jersey must earn at least $51,044 annually – the fifth-highest amount in the nation – to be able to afford rent and utilities for a ‘safe and modest’ two-bedroom rental property, according to a study released yesterday. Statewide, a typical renter earns about $32,905, according to the report, which was released by two housing advocacy groups. The fair market rent for a two bedroom-apartment in New Jersey is $1,276, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the report found New Jersey families are paying much more than the recommended 30 percent of income on housing and utilities…”
  • Harvard report finds housing ‘affordability crisis’, By Megan Woolhouse, May 3, 2011, Boston Globe: “Philip Frabetti wants to move his wife and two children out of their cramped apartment in the North End, but finding a bigger place that’s affordable has been difficult. Frabetti, a project manager at Fidelity Investments, said the asking rents of $2,500 or more a month in Newton, Arlington, and Belmont would eat up at least half of his monthly income…”
  • Typical renter can’t afford one-bedroom apartment in Seattle, By Aubrey Cohen, May 2, 2011, Seattle Post-Intelligencer: “The typical renter in the Seattle-Bellevue area could afford a one-bedroom apartment a year ago but just a studio now, according to a new report. That’s because that renter is earning 5.1 percent less, while fair market rents compiled by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development have risen 11.3 percent, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s annual ‘Out of Reach’ report. This means the typical renter would have to work 44 hours a week, with no vacation or sick days, to pay for a one-bedroom apartment (up from 37 hours a week in 2010)…”

Basic Economic Security

Beyond ‘surviving’: Defining economic security, April 14, 2011, National Public Radio: “As President Obama and members of Congress debate national budgets, Shawn McMahon has been calculating individual and family budgets. He’s the research director for Wider Opportunities for Women, a group that works with low-income women and families. The nonprofit group just released its Basic Economic Security Tables index, which measures the minimum income workers need to achieve basic economic security…”

Low-Wage Jobs and Economic Security

Many low-wage jobs seen as failing to meet basic needs, By Motoko Rich, March 31, 2011, New York Times: “Hard as it can be to land a job these days, getting one may not be nearly enough for basic economic security. The Labor Department will release its monthly snapshot of the job market on Friday, and economists expect it to show that the nation’s employers added about 190,000 jobs in March. With an unemployment rate that has been stubbornly stuck near 9 percent, those workers could be considered lucky. But many of the jobs being added in retail, hospitality and home health care, to name a few categories, are unlikely to pay enough for workers to cover the cost of fundamentals like housing, utilities, food, health care, transportation and, in the case of working parents, child care. A separate report being released Friday tries to go beyond traditional measurements like the poverty line and minimum wage to show what people need to earn to achieve a basic standard of living…”

World Food Prices

Soaring food prices send millions into poverty, hunger, By John Waggoner, March 17, 2011, USA Today: “Corn has soared 52% the past 12 months. Sugar’s up 60%. Soybeans have jumped 41%. And wheat costs 24% more than it did a year ago. For about 44 million people – roughly the population of the New York, Los Angeles and Chicago metropolitan areas combined – the rise in food prices means a descent into extreme poverty and hunger, according to the World Bank. The surge in food prices has many causes. Rising population. Speculators. Soaring oil prices. Trade policies. And, ironically, improved standards of living in emerging nations. By itself, the soaring cost of food didn’t cause the political unrest in the Middle East and elsewhere. Those tensions have been building for a long time. But higher food prices amplify those tensions…”