Tag Archives: living wage

‘Economically forgotten’ have much in common with America’s poor

Axios.com has an Exclusive: 40% in U.S. can’t afford middle-class basics:

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Data: United Way; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

At a time of rock-bottom joblessness, high corporate profits and a booming stock market, more than 40% of U.S. households cannot pay the basics of a middle-class lifestyle — rent, transportation, child care and a cellphone, according to a new study.

Quick take: The study, conducted by United Way, found a wide band of working U.S. households that live above the official poverty line, but below the cost of paying ordinary expenses. Based on 2016 data, there were 34.7 million households in that group — double the 16.1 million that are in actual poverty, project director Stephanie Hoopes tells Axios.

Why it matters: For two years, U.S. politics has been dominated by the anger and resentment of a self-identified “forgotten” class, some left behind economically and others threatened by changes to their way of life.

  • The United Way study, to be released publicly Thursday, suggests that the economically forgotten are a far bigger group than many studies assume — and, according to Hoopes, appear to be growing larger despite the improving economy.
  • The study dubs that middle group between poverty and the middle class “ALICE” families, for Asset-limited, Income-constrained, Employed. (The map above, by Axios’ Chris Canipe, depicts that state-by-state population in dark brown.)
  • These are households with adults who are working but earning too little — 66% of Americans earn less than $20 an hour, or about $40,000 a year if they are working full time.

When you add them together with the people living in poverty, you get 51 million households. “It’s a magnitude of financial hardship that we haven’t been able to capture until now,” Hoopes said.

By the numbers: Using 2016 data collected from the states, the study found that North Dakota has the smallest population between poverty and middle class, at 32% of its households. The largest is 49%, in California, Hawaii and New Mexico. “49% is shocking. 32% is also shocking,” Hoopes said.

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Poor People’s Campaign kickoff on Monday

Here is something you can persuade your local church congregation into supporting and participating in. After all, WWJD?

On Monday, thousands of low-wage workers, clergy and activists will gather at the U.S. Capitol and more than 30 statehouses across the country to kick off the Poor People’s Campaign (organization website), a civil disobedience movement that aims to push the issue of poverty to the top of the national political agenda. Here’s how the Poor People’s Campaign aims to finish what MLK started:

Inspired by a 1968 initiative planned by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the multiracial coalition will involve 40 days of protests and direct actions to highlight the issues of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation, the war economy and militarism. Organizers are pitching it as one of the largest waves of nonviolent direct action in U.S. history.

About 41 million Americans live below the official poverty line, the majority of them white. Organizers with the Poor People’s Campaign say official measures of poverty are too narrow, and the number of poor and low-income Americans expands to 140 million if food, clothing, housing and utility costs, as well as government assistance programs, are taken into account.

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