Research Finds Millions of Families Live in Economic Uncertainty

Research Finds Millions of Families Live in Economic Uncertainty

Prosperity Now, a national nonprofit dedicated to expanding economic opportunity for low-income families and communities in the United States, recently released a report called the “2019 Prosperity Now Scorecard.” The Scorecard ranks states on 52 outcome measures across five issue areas on the financial situation of all residents.

One in five jobs are in low-wage occupations with median pay less than the poverty threshold for a family of four. One in five households experience modest-to-significant fluctuations in monthly income. Having savings is the best way to get through financial hardship due to income volatility or unexpected expenses, but 40 percent of households lack the savings or assets easily converted to cash to sustain themselves at the poverty level for three months in such situations. Overall, 13 percent of households fell behind on their bills in the past year. Falling behind varies significantly among demographic groups: 28 percent of working-age householders with a disability, 24 percent of black households, and 21 percent of households that earn less than $30,000 fell behind on their bills.

The report also states that rent is also unaffordable for many households. Fifty percent of all renters and 54 percent of renters of color are housing cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities.

The authors recommend protecting safety-net programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid, and Medicare, which keep low- and moderate-income families from falling into poverty. They also recommend removing features of these programs that penalize households for accruing savings.