Those Who Don't Get By

| August 20, 2001

Those Who Don't Get By

Few, if any, families can get by on full-time minimum wage jobs alone, and almost one-third of American families with young kids do not earn enough for a modicum of security.

The Washington D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute confirms Barbara Ehrenreich's research for her book, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. For the book, left her middle-class life and for three months in three different cities she tried to support herself working various minimum-wage jobs. She couldn't do it.

'Of the families who earned less than the 'basic' budget, which amounts to $33,511 for a family of four, more than 70 percent worried about food, sometimes missed rent payments, and/or had to rely on an emergency room for their medical care,' Ehrenreich reports in The Progressive. 'Nearly 30 percent reported facing far more dire hardships--having to miss meals, forgoing needed medical care, being evicted from their housing.'

To get by, most of these families forego medical insurance even when their companies offer it, because the monthly employee contribution that often tops $100 is more than they can afford. Beyond that, to make ends meet, many of the wage earners work two jobs, use food stamps, and skip meals.

Ehrenreich argues that in order to fix the problem, we need to increase the minimum wage to a 'living wage,' and expand current government programs to assist more people.
--Sara V. Buckwitz
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