February 20, 2008

A Widening Hardship Gap

62%

The gap between the wealthiest and poorest people in affording basic items is much wider now than it was during the 1992 economic downturn; more than six-in-ten (62%) self-described “working class” people now say their incomes are falling behind the cost of living

The gap between the wealthiest and poorest people in the difficulty they report in affording basic items is much wider now than it was in 1992; fully 62% of self-described “working class” people — a group that makes up 47% of the general public — now say their incomes are falling behind the cost of living, up from 45% in September 2007. A much smaller proportion of self-described “professional or business class” people (32% of the public) say their incomes are falling behind (40%), and there has been only a modest increase since September in the percentage expressing this view (six points). People who say their households are “struggling” (15% of the public) remain most likely to say their incomes are falling behind (85%). The recent rise in the percentage of Americans who say that their incomes are falling behind the cost of living has come largely among middle-income and poor people. Roughly seven-in-ten (71%) of those with household incomes of less than $50,000 a year say their incomes are falling behind the cost of living, up 16 points since last September. By contrast, only a third (33%) of those with household incomes of $100,000 a year or more say their incomes are not keeping pace with the cost of living, up modestly since September (four points). Read More