More than a third of US families that work full-time do not earn enough money to cover their most basic needs, including housing, food and childcare, a new study shows.
Researchers at Brandeis University found 35% of American families do not meet the “basic family needs budget” — the amount needed to afford rent, food, transportation, medical care and minimal household expenses — despite working full-time year-round.
And the economic situation is even more dire for working black and Hispanic families, more than 50% of whom cannot afford the basics.
For comparison, a quarter of white families and 23% of Asian and Pacific Islander families are struggling to make rent and buy food, despite holding down full-time jobs.
Low-income families with children are doing especially poorly, according to the survey, with more than two-thirds of full-time workers failing to earn enough to make ends meet.
Most of these families would need to earn about $11 more per hour to fully cover basic expenses, or about $23,500 in additional annual earnings, according to the research.
Meanwhile, black and Hispanic families would need to earn more than $12 per hour — an additional $26,500 per year — just to meet a family budget.
“These results are a wake-up call for decision makers to prioritize policies that address income inequality and racial and ethnic equity and extend real opportunities for economic self-sufficiency.” said Dr. Pamela Joshi, senior research scientist and lead study author.
The study, which is based on 98,000 households, also found that more than half of low-income Hispanic families do not have health insurance, and more than three-quarters do not have pensions.
“When families can’t afford their basic needs, it places stress on parents’ health, and it increases the likelihood that children will continue to lack resources and opportunities that promote their well-being,” said study co-author Dr. Dolores Acevedo-Garcia.
The study offers several recommendations to policymakers to improve the economic outlook for low-income families, including creating more jobs that provide a living wage, expanding income support, and paid family and medical leave.
The results of the survey are based on data from 2015-2019, before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic that wreaked havoc on the job market, and before the recent spikes in inflation, gasoline and food prices.