Working Households and Basic Needs – Michigan

Report: Michigan makes little progress in lifting working poor to financial stability, By Lindsay VanHulle, April 4, 2017, Crain’s Detroit Business: “To make ends meet as a four-person family in Michigan, with a child in preschool and a baby at home, it’s practically mandatory that both parents work full time and make at least $14 per hour each. A single breadwinner in that same family would have to make at least $28 per hour. And that’s just to afford basic living needs, like housing, child care, transportation and medical bills. Yet Michigan’s job market is disproportionately made up of low-wage jobs — 62 percent of the state’s jobs in 2015 paid less than $20 per hour, according to new research on the state’s working poor to be released Tuesday by the Michigan Association of United Ways…”

Human Needs Index – Indiana

New poverty index shows continuing need in Indiana, By Maureen Groppe, October 7, 2015, Indianapolis Star: “Indiana is taking longer to recover from the Great Recession than the nation as a whole, according to a new poverty measure released Wednesday by Indiana University and the Salvation Army. The Human Needs Index tracks services provided by the Salvation Army for food, shelter, clothing, health and well-being. Researchers at the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis said the index provides a more timely and detailed measure of need than government poverty statistics…”

Bangor Daily News ‘People Next Door’ Series

Living in a house of cards: A look back at people in Maine who are just scraping by, By Sandy Butler and Luisa Deprez, January 30, 2015, Bangor Daily News: “Ramon Perez works full-time at a job to which he walks the 2 miles since he doesn’t have a car. Still, his family of four in Augusta struggles to make ends meet. Helen, 45, works seven days a week caring for people with chronic health conditions but lacks health insurance herself. Wendall Hall of Milo, who recently lost his wife of several decades to heart and lung disease and then became guardian for his nine-year-old grandson, struggles to keep them fed and properly housed. Robert fled his native Angola and came to Maine to escape torture and death. He speaks nine languages and is fluent in English. With his wife and children, he expects to contribute to his community, but first he needs a job. Emergency funding through General Assistance enables them to stay afloat to give them that chance to succeed. For the past 18 months, we have profiled individuals and families struggling to make ends meet in Maine. These are people we know, who live in our communities, sometimes next door to us. We often mistakenly think they’re doing OK when in fact they are not…”

Working Households and Basic Needs – Florida

United Way study finds working families struggling to get by, By Jenny Staletovich, November 11, 2014, Miami Herald: “Almost half the residents of Florida, including much of the state’s glitzy southern half, are barely getting by, living below the federal poverty level or struggling to pay for food, housing, childcare and other basic needs, according to a United Way study released Tuesday. Dubbed the ALICE report, the study looks closely at the working poor — those people squeezed between the nation’s poorest and its middle class, often overlooked and living paycheck-to-paycheck. Statewide, about 2.1 million households fall into the category, the report found. In Miami-Dade County, the rate is even higher: 21 percent of households live below the federal poverty level and an additional 29 percent can’t afford a ‘survival budget…'”

Disability and Poverty

  • Disability makes poverty likelier than ever: report, By Olivia Carville, September 25, 2014, Toronto Star: “Being disabled is increasingly a trigger for poverty and hunger, according to a new report profiling food bank clients across the GTA. The percentage of disabled people lining up at food banks has almost doubled since 2005, the Daily Bread Food Bank’s Who’s Hungry report states. Disability beneficiaries receive so little money from Ontario’s social welfare programs they are forced to live in poverty, Daily Bread executive director Gail Nyberg said…”
  • People with disability ‘twice as likely to experience poverty’ – charity, By Geraldine Gittens, September 24, 2014, Irish Independent: “People with a disability are twice as likely to experience poverty due to the extra costs they incur, a charity has warned. There is ‘substantial evidence’ that the additional costs of having a disability can place a household ‘at significant risk of poverty and deprivation’, according to new research acquired by Inclusion Ireland…”

Working Households and Basic Needs – Michigan

Report: 4 in 10 Michigan households struggle to make ends meet, By Emily Lawler, August 31, 2014, MLive: “Jessie Robinson got her paycheck last week, and started the process of deciding which bills to pay. ‘I am constantly going through all of the bills and figuring which stuff is going to be turned off first and paying those bills first,’ Robinson said. Her family is one of 40 percent of households in the state that despite working, doesn’t have enough money to pay for basic needs according to a new report from United Way. The report measures the state’s 2012 ‘ALICE’ households; an acronym for those that are Asset Limited, Income Constrained and Employed…”

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…”

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…”

Economic Security of Seniors – Michigan

  • Poverty study: 1 in 3 Michigan senior citizens struggles with money, By Robin Erb, July 20, 2011, Detroit Free Press: “A third of Michigan’s seniors are considered ‘economically insecure’ – far more than the federal poverty limits would suggest, according to a new study. Moreover, even in counties that are home to some of the most affluent suburbs where the wealthiest will buoy the overall median household income, at least one in four seniors on the other end of the economic scale struggles to make ends meet, according to the paper, ‘Invisible Poverty: New Measure Unveils Financial Hardship in Michigan’s Older Population…'”
  • Study: Third of Lansing-area seniors are struggling financially, By Kathleen Lavey, July 19, 2011, Lansing State Journal: “More than one-third of Michigan’s senior citizens are struggling to pay for food, housing, transportation and medical care they need, according a report to be released today. Those who do not own homes or who rely solely on Social Security payments to live are at much greater risk, says the report by Wayne State University researchers. ‘These numbers are very frightening,’ said Kate White, executive director of Elder Law of Michigan, an advocacy and service group that is releasing the Michigan- focused report today along with the report’s authors…”

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…”

Ohio Self-Sufficiency Standard

  • Low pay linked to poverty rates, By Catherine Candisky, May 7, 2011, Columbus Dispatch: “Of Ohio’s 10 largest occupations, only one pays enough for a family of three to pay for food, housing and other basic needs: nursing. A report released yesterday found a job doesn’t always pay enough for families to be self-sufficient. Despite full-time employment, many still rely on food stamps, subsidized child care or other types of government assistance to make ends meet. ‘Poverty persists because … we have a lot of lower-paying jobs,’ said Philip E. Cole, executive director of the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies, which commissioned the analysis. ‘We need to focus on jobs with good benefits.’ Cole said he thinks Ohio is investing more than any other state into creating jobs, and he commended Gov. John Kasich for his efforts to attract and retain employers. But planned cuts to the state’s subsidized child-care program will make it more difficult for many low-wage workers to keep their jobs because they can’t afford to pay someone to look after their kids, Cole said…”
  • Report: Parents with low pay rely on aid, By Russ Zimmer, May 7, 2011, Zanesville Times Recorder: “Eight of the 10 largest occupations in Ohio do not pay enough for an adult with a young child to live without public assistance, according to a report released Friday. In fact, the median hourly wage in the state, $15.72, doesn’t allow a single earner with a baby to live free of welfare, according to Diana Pearce, the author of the report. Pearce based her findings on the self-sufficiency standard, a metric she developed 14 years ago that calculates the costs of basic living needs and the earnings required to cover them. The problem is a lack of good jobs, but Pearce added that Ohio’s situation is not unlike other states. The eight top jobs — fast-food worker is No. 1 with 151,000, and retail sales and cashiers round out the top three — represent about 18 percent of all workers in Ohio…”

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…”

Child Poverty – South Africa

Apartheid-style neglect of kids continues, By Charl Du Plessis, March 24, 2011, Sunday Times: “So says a report, a collaboration between the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) and the SA Human Rights Commission, released yesterday. It details how the country fails the most vulnerable. The report said that 64%, or 11.9million of the country’s 18.6million children, live in poverty, and four out of 10 children live in households in which none of the adults work. About 1.7million children lived in shacks, 1.4million relied on rivers or streams as their main source of water, and 1.5million had no toilet in their home. African children were 18 times more likely to grow up in poverty and 12 times more likely to experience hunger than white children. The worst-hit areas of ‘multiple deprivation’ were still former homelands, said the report, which drew on data from the Statistics SA general household survey and other surveys. Children are failed primarily by the health and education systems…”

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…”

World Food Prices

Food prices reach record high, By Caroline Henshaw, March 3, 2011, Wall Street Journal: “World food prices rose 2.2% in February from the previous month to a record peak, the United Nations’ food body said Thursday, as it warned that volatility in oil markets could push prices even higher. The Food and Agriculture Organization price index rose by 2.2%-the eighth consecutive rise since June-to an average of 236 points last month, the highest record in real and nominal terms since the agency started monitoring prices in 1990. Global cereal supplies are also expected to tighten sharply this year due low stock levels, the FAO said. The body raised its estimate for world cereal production in 2010 by eight million metric tons from its December estimate to 2.2 billion tons but said it expects that to be outpaced by an 18 million-ton increase in world consumption. But while the world isn’t yet facing a food crisis, the secretary of the FAO’s Intergovernmental Group on Grains, Abdolreza Abbassian, said the recent rise in Brent oil prices to above $120 a barrel could create the same potent mix of factors that pushed grain prices to record highs three years ago…”

Household Financial Security – Virginia

Study: Many Va. households lack financial security, By Zinie Chen Sampson, March 1, 2011, Washington Post: “A significant number of households across the state lack enough income and assets to cover basic needs and unplanned expenses, and the federal poverty level inadequately measures how much it costs to be economically self-sufficient, according to a University of Virginia study. The Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service report said the average two-adult, two-child family in Virginia needs about $44,000, or twice the federal poverty level, to pay for their monthly living expenses. The study shows that 24.2 percent of Virginia’s families earn below $44,000…”

UN Food Price Index

Rising global food prices squeeze the world’s poor, By Ben Arnoldy, February 10, 2011, Christian Science Monitor: “Amid the stalls of neatly stacked vegetables at this city’s Sarojini Market, Manju shops with her young granddaughter. Her bags have become lighter in recent months, as she’s cutting back on the basics. Food prices have risen sharply over the past year and Manju is even going with fewer onions, the ubiquitous ingredient that fills just about every Indian gravy dish. ‘The kids have stopped eating properly,’ she says. ‘They have lost the taste for food and are complaining.’ Families in many parts of the world – especially India, China, Mexico, Haiti, and Egypt, where food costs spiked in the past year – are making sacrifices and seeking alternatives. The United Nations Food and Agri­cultural Organization (FAO) food price index hit an all-time high in December. This sparked concern that high prices just prior to the global recession could reflect longer-term structural changes in supply and demand that will imperil the poor’s ability to eat…”

Arizona Republic Series: Losing Ground, Arizona’s Middle Class

  • Arizona’s middle class: Defining American ideal, By Betty Beard, January 23, 2011, Arizona Republic: “America’s middle class has never been easy to define, measure or study. It’s loosely seen as those falling between the impoverished and the rich, the vast group that makes enough money to aspire to the American dream. The dream varies depending on the individual. But generally, “middle class” means enough to live on, with a little bit more. It means in typical times, you can support a household, buy a home and pay a mortgage, afford medical care, help the kids with college costs and plot out a comfortable retirement. With the ‘little bit more,’ you can indulge – an upgraded smartphone, a relaxing vacation, a better car. ‘It’s a headache trying to define,’ said John Russo, of the Center for Working Class Studies at Ohio’s Youngstown State University. It would seem obvious that the middle class could be defined by money – perhaps broadly, such as those between the 20th and 80th percentiles in income, or more narrowly, such as those earning a certain percentage below or above the median income. In Arizona, the median income last year was almost $33,000. But Philadelphia-based economist Joel Naroff said that defining the middle class based solely on income can be misleading…”
  • Arizona’s middle class: Poverty casts longer shadow, By Betty Beard, January 24, 2011, Arizona Republic: “Gas prices hover near $3. Medical costs are on the rise, and child care can be expensive. And there’s always an emergency home repair that just wasn’t in the budget. It’s hard to climb back to a middle-class lifestyle after a tumble into joblessness and poverty, as many Arizonans are finding. In September, the U.S. Census Bureau said Arizona had the nation’s second-worst poverty rate in 2009, behind Mississippi. The percentage of impoverished Arizonans was said to have increased to 21 percent in 2009 from 18 percent in 2008. The one-year change highlights the devastating impact of the Great Recession in Arizona, which typically falls in the upper third of the 50 states for high poverty rates. The lower-middle class, in particular, faces a shaky short-term outlook…”
  • Arizona’s middle class in crisis: Many are barely hanging on, By Betty Beard, January 23, 2011, Arizona Republic: “Arizonans are coming to terms with a harsh reality: Life is different now. Fundamentally, profoundly different. More than 3 1/2 years after home prices peaked, and three years after the recession began, the economic aftershocks continue. In the job-networking groups and the partially built subdivisions, in the nervous break-room conversations, many middle-class dreams are under siege…”