Life In Limbo: Why Are So Many Americans Living Paycheck-To-Paycheck?
Times were tough for millions in the U.S. before 2020, but the COVID-19 crisis and its economic fallout have made it harder to find work at all — let alone one that pays a living wage — and further exacerbated household financial fragility.
There are staggering racial wealth disparities in the U.S. According to Sept. 2020 Federal Reserve data, the typical White family has eight times the wealth of the typical Black family and five times that of the typical Hispanic family.
Combined with gendered economic inequality, the divide especially impacts the economic security of women of color.
Service and production jobs typically offer lower wages and fewer benefits. Employees in these industries are often on the frontlines of the pandemic, caught between a rock and a hard place: They can't afford to skip shifts but also can't afford to get sick.
What are the primary reasons people struggle to make ends meet? What conditions have allowed so many households to experience financial hardship?
Is poverty a moral issue? What's being done to reframe the narrative to focus on root causes and systemic failures, instead of personal ones?
What policy changes could be implemented to improve the status quo for those in the U.S. who are one misstep or emergency away from complete financial collapse?
- Daniel Schneider, public policy professor at the Kennedy School and co-director of The Shift Project at Harvard University, and co-author of an Oct. 2020 report on "Household Financial Fragility during COVID-19"
- Wendy Edelberg, director of The Hamilton Project and senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution
- Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, co-chair of the Poor Peoples Campaign
- Shailly Gupta Barnes, policy director for the Poor Peoples Campaign
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*This interview was recorded on Wednesday, January 6.