Can Policy Changes Help the Struggling Lower-Middle Class?
More than half the families in the United States earn less than $60,000 per year. Even at 250 times federal poverty level, lower-middle class incomes leave workers vulnerable to financial disaster.
(Photo Credit: JD Hancock/Flickr)
A recent policy paper from The Hamilton Project, part of the Brookings Institution think tank, addressed this issue:
“Many families in America’s struggling lower-middle class — defined to include those with income between 100 and 250 percent of the federal poverty level, or between roughly $15,000 and $60,000, depending on family size and composition — live in economically precarious situations. Though not officially poor, these families experience limited economic security; one major setback in income could push them into poverty.”
Among The Hamilton Project’s other findings were that half of struggling families were headed by a college-educated adult, and that nearly half were headed by a married couple. In other words, poverty-associated problems like food insecurity are not the exclusive problem of the lowest income sector — and being employed and college-educated aren’t necessarily insulators against those issues.
On Dec. 4, President Obama made a speech highlighting the problems of the working poor and the “dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility”:
“The top 10 percent no longer takes in one-third of our income — it now takes half. Whereas in the past, the average CEO made about 20 to 30 times the income of the average worker, today’s CEO now makes 273 times more. And meanwhile, a family in the top 1 percent has a net worth 288 times higher than the typical family, which is a record for this country. So the basic bargain at the heart of our economy has frayed. ”
Democrats and President Obama are pushing for policy changes, including a minimum wage hike to $10 an hour, in the hopes of reducing income inequality.
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