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Working Poor: Almost Half Of U.S. Households Live One Crisis From The Bread Line


What does it mean to be poor?

If it means living at or below the poverty line, then 15 percent of Americans — some 46 million people — qualify. But if it means living with a decent income and hardly any savings — so that one piece of bad luck, one major financial blow, could land you in serious, lasting trouble — then it’s a much larger number. In fact, it’s almost half the country.

“The resources that people have — they are using up those resources,” said Jennifer Brooks, director of state and local policy at the Corporation for Enterprise Development, a Washington, D.C., advocacy group. “They’re living off their savings. They’re at the end of their rope.”

The group issued a report today examining so-called liquid asset poverty households — the people who aren’t living below the poverty line, but don’t have enough money saved to weather a significant emergency.

According to the report, 43 percent of households in America — some 127.5 million people — are liquid-asset poor. If one of these households experiences a sudden loss of income, caused, for example, by a layoff or a medical emergency, it will fall below the poverty line within three months. People in these households simply don’t have enough cash to make it for very long in a crisis.

The findings underscore the struggles of many Americans during what has often seemed like an economic recovery in name only. While the Great Recession officially ended more than two years ago, unemployment remains high and wages have barely budged for most workers. For more people, whether they draw a paycheck or not, a life free of deprivation and financial anxiety seems perpetually out of reach.

That’s not to say that everyone who is liquid-asset poor spends all their time fretting. On the contrary, because many have regular paychecks coming in, they may not grasp the precariousness of their situation.

Working Poor: Almost Half Of U.S. Households Live One Crisis From The Bread Line.


  1. Douglass Turner
    February 10, 2012 at 12:53 pm

    I was shocked and amazed by your statistics on American households facing total asset poverty by having a financial crisis event in their day to day family lives. America’s heart must go out to those facing such dire prospects in the so called, “wealthiest nation in the world”. With your permission, I would like to incorporate your brief report, unchanged, into a letter to the editor of the Alfred Sun in NY. There are so many families in Allegany County, the poorest county in NYS, who may fit this profile and lack access to Internet services, reasonably feeling that no one cares about their plights. Perhaps getting this information into the local printed press might lessen their feelings of isolation and lack of caring.

  2. February 10, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    Hi Douglass,

    Thanks for your comments on this article. It was featured in the Huffington Post and was not written by HSITrust. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/31/working-poor-liquid-asset-poverty_n_1243152.html

    We think sharing this information with families in Allegany County is a wonderful idea!

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