Report: Half of U.S. Families Live on the Edge of ‘Economic Chaos’

Economic insecurity has become the norm.

By Imara Jones Dec 04, 2013

Half of all families in the United States are poor, near poor or face economic insecurity where "one major setback in income could push them into poverty." That’s the shocking conclusion of a report released today by The Hamilton Project. Released by the left-of-center think tank housed at the non-partisan Brookings Institution, the report is a bombshell for those who believe that the current workings of the economy are both sound and fair.

According to the report titled "A Dozen Facts About America’s Struggling Lower Middle Class," families with household incomes under $60,000 a year "live in economically precarious situations." The earnings of half of all American households fall between $15,000 and $60,000. And it’s barely sufficient for many to keep their head above water.

Sadly, the tough news for workers who face economic insecurity and their children doesn’t end with lower pay. Four out of 10 kids who live in families earning between $15,000 and $60,000 face hunger, food insecurity or food-related health challenges such as obesity.

And on top of it all, working poor and lower-middle-class workers pay the highest marginal tax rates of any other group of taxpayers in America, reaching up to 95 percent of earned income.

For many The Hamilton Project’s analysis will not come as surprise.  These longterm trends are showing up in data from across the U.S. economy, including in the disappointing "Black Friday weekend holiday sales.Given that wages are at a 40-year low and the ongoing impact of a still struggling economy, living on the verge of "economic chaos," as the report puts it, is now standard fare for most.