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100 Million and Counting: A Portrait of Economic Insecurity in the United States

Winning on equity — creating, for the first time, a society that is just and fair for all — is the central challenge of our time and the work for our generation.

100 Million and Counting: A Portrait of Economic Insecurity in the United States

December 05, 2018 Oakland, CA

INTRODUCTION

Economic security for all households and residents is critical to the health and well- being of families, neighborhoods, and our local and national economies. Despite the fact that the United States is the wealthiest nation on earth, tens of millions of people living in this country are unable to attain even a basic dignified standard of living, while millions more balance precariously on the edge, where even a short-term illness, loss of income, or emergency expense can be financially insurmountable.

The Federal Reserve recently reported that 40 percent of U.S. adults would be unable to cover an unexpected cost of $400. And according to the Urban Institute, about the same share experienced at least one “material hardship” last year, unable to pay for groceries, rent, utilities, medical bills, or other basic needs.

Today, roughly 106 million people in the United States — one in every three — are economically insecure, which we define as having a household income below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. In this report, PolicyLink and the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) at the University of Southern California analyze the economically insecure population using data that measure demographics, connection to work, and conditions of opportunity.

Our research shows that economic insecurity is widespread but uneven, reflecting not only the toxic polarization of wealth and income but also the persistence of racial inequities throughout the economy. 

Click here for the full report.

ABOUT THIS REPORT

This data profile of the economically insecure in the United States was produced as part of the formal research partnership between PolicyLink and the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) at the University of Southern California, with generous support from the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth.

This profile was written by Abigail Langston at PolicyLink. The data were prepared by Justin Scoggins at PERE; and the charts and maps were created by Justin Scoggins, Abigail Langston, and Ángel Ross of PolicyLink. Many thanks to Sarah Treuhaft and Victor Rubin of PolicyLink for their thoughtful feedback; to Rosamaria Carrillo, Heather Tamir, and Jacob Goolkasian of PolicyLink for their assistance with formatting and design; and to Joanna Lee of PERE, who assisted with double checking the accuracy of the myriad data points presented.