A new report from Wider Opportunity for Women (WOW) finds that 45% of U.S. residents are economically insecure. According to the report, economically insecure families are those who live on income above the poverty line, yet struggle to meet the increasing costs of housing, utilities, food and other basic goods and services.
WOW reports that women, regardless of race, are more vulnerable to economic insecurity than men. Forty-two percent of adult women live on income that exposes them to economic insecurity compared to 37% of men. The authors also found that the partial, if not primary, reason for this difference is the income gap between men and women.
Among different types of households evaluated in the report, 82% of single-mother families lack economic security as opposed to 59% of single-father families. Furthermore, more than 90% of families headed by single Hispanic women, and 88% of families headed by single black women, are among the most vulnerable types of families. Citing a report from the National Association of Child Care Resources and Referral Agencies (NACCRA), WOW says the increasing cost of child care as one cause of economic insecurity among households with children.
WOW’s report also emphasizes the direct relationship between educational attainment and economic security. However, based on the report, families headed by adults with undergraduate or graduate degrees are not immune from economic insecurity. Twenty-one percent of households headed by adults with a bachelor’s degree and 12% of families with graduate or professional degrees lack economic security.
Finally, the report indicates that, among employed adults working full-time, 25% are economically insecure, mainly due either to decreasing or stagnating wages.
The BEST index, used in the report to gauge the income level working families require if basic needs are to be met, uses HUD’s Fair Market Rents (FMRs) as a data source to estimate basic housing costs.
The study, Living the Line: Economic Insecurity and America’s Families, can be accessed at http://www.wowonline.org/livingbelowtheline.asp