More than half of American families make $60,000 a year or less, according to a report from The Hamilton Project.
The report breaks it down even further, noting that 40 percent of families earn $40,000 or less a year and a remarkable 15 percent earn somewhere between $1 and $20,000 a year. On the other hand, very few earn above $100,000. “For working-age families with children, earning over $100,000 is the exception, not the rule,” it notes. Less than 3 percent earn more than $260,000.
The report also notes that nearly half of today’s families live at 250 percent of the federal poverty line ($58,208 for a two-parent family with two kids), and it calls those who live between that threshold and the poverty line itself the “struggling lower-middle class” given that “any unanticipated downturns in income could push them into poverty.” It finds that these struggling families are equally headed by single parents and married parents alike and that about half of the parents have attended some college.
About a third of these families have to rely on public programs to get by, including 21 percent who rely on food stamps, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. A quarter of the children in these struggling families face food insecurity, compared to just 15 percent of those who live above 250 percent of the poverty line.
The report’s findings that many families who aren’t technically below the poverty line struggle to get by isn’t surprising. Making $60,000 a year won’t bring a family economic security, according the Basic Economy Security Tables Index developed by WOW and Washington University. Their calculations find that a two-income, two-child family needs nearly $72,000 a year to feel economically secure without even taking into account such things as saving for college or buying a home.
The concentration of American families at the bottom of the income scale, where they struggle to get by, highlights growing income inequality and stagnating wages over recent decades. Over the last three years, the wealthiest saw incomes grow by 5 percent, but everyone else’s actually dropped. More workers find themselves scraping by as low-wage jobs replace middle class work in the recovery period. And those wages haven’t grown even as workers produce more, as the bottom 60 percent of earners have experienced a “lost decade” of wage growth where it either fell or stayed flat. At the same time, the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans are taking home a record share of income.