Low-income Americans can no longer afford rent, food, and transportation

By:  Soo Oh

Low-income Americans are experiencing a staggering price hike in housing costs — a change that makes it sometimes impossible to afford basic necessities.

new Pew Charitable Trusts analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in 2013, low-income Americans spent a median of $6,897 on housing. In 2014, that rose to $9,178 — the biggest jump in housing spending for the 19-year period of data that Pew studied.

The cost of other necessities, like transportation and food, also rose, albeit not as dramatically. 2014 was the first year that Pew studied in which median spending on these three categories was higher than the median income for those in the lower third of income groups.

"We show in these figures that over time, [lower-income groups] consistently spend more on transportation and considerably more on housing," Erin Currier, the project director at Pew Charitable Trusts, said. "Lower-income renters are spending nearly half their income on rent, while upper-income groups spend about 15 percent on rent. The disparity really shows that lower income families don’t have much slack in their budgets for mobility-enhancing investments like savings and wealth building."

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