Household Income Short of $68K? Welcome To the New Poverty


Have you been laboring under the delusion that you're still part of the tiny, rapidly vanishing Middle Class? Happy April Fools Day! A new study proves that a family of four needs $67,920 a year (pre-tax) to survive in America. And that's basic: no vacations, no fancy dinners, no wine tastings, no fun-box deliveries from Amazon or Zappos or whatever every couple of months to break up the crushing monotony of work and eventual death. You will, however, spend an average of $12,000 a year on car insurance and payments on your crappy mid-sized sedan, because we don't have much in the way of public transportation in this country. And you'll spend another $12,000 a year on child care, because we don't like to provide socialism in these parts, ha ha. Freedom isn't free, after all.

Not much left after $12,000 a year in rent and utilities, either. Don't forget to pay $9,000 in taxes on that $67,920! Who do you think you are, General Electric?

The median household income in the United States is $52,029 -- nearly $16,000 shy of what it actually costs to keep your head above water if you've got a two-income two-child household.

The DC-based nonprofit Wider Opportunities For Women has been compiling the numbers for exactly what it takes to have basic economic security in this country -- housing, food, transportation, child care if you have little kids, utilities, and a tiny contribution to savings for your old age -- and the numbers are more than triple the ridiculous official poverty levels:

A single worker with two young children needs an annual income of $57,756, or just over $27 an hour, to attain economic stability, and a family with two working parents and two young children needs to earn $67,920 a year, or about $16 an hour per worker.

That compares with the national poverty level of $22,050 for a family of four. The most recent data from the Census Bureau found that 14.3 percent of Americans were living below the poverty line in 2009.

Yes, families of four are most certainly living in abject poverty at $22,050 a year. And they're still a few paychecks away from disaster at $50,000 or $60,000 a year. Of course there are regional variations here, with big city housing costing the most and energy bills highest where the weather is extreme and the cost of living often being lower where there are, uh, no jobs or schools or anything. As for you single people, the government says anything beyond $10,830 means you're not in poverty. This new study gives a more realistic number, based on the actual cost of basic shelter and food and electricity and getting to your shitty job if you're lucky enough to have a shitty job: $30,012 a year. It almost seems like enough until you start paying for groceries and rent ....

If you're in the top 20% of income earners in this country, you're doing better with $180,000 in annual income -- but not so much better that you feel especially comfortable, and you're relatively free from the danger of being "rich." We reserve that special category for the 1% who control 70% of the wealth in this country and have household incomes above $400,000. (And because it's a day of such mirth and fun, we will not even type the household income levels for the top tenth of a percent.)

So we are now officially living in a country where more than 60% of households are not making enough money for a basic household -- the bottom three quintiles of American household income top out at $62,000. [NYT/Wider Opportunities For Women]

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