Friday, September 6, 2013

Living Conditions in the U.S: Hardships in Fulfilling Basic Needs

Roger Green, who runs the New York State Data Center Affiliates Blog notes that a recent report from the Census Bureau finds that 22 percent of households experienced one or more possible “hardships” in fulfilling their basic needs in the previous 12 months. These hardships included difficulty meeting essential expenses such as not paying rent or mortgage; getting evicted; not paying utilities; having utilities or phone service cut off; not seeing a doctor or dentist when needed; or not always having enough food. Among all households, 9 percent experienced exactly one of them, 7 percent experienced two of the hardships and 6 percent endured three or more of these problems.

These statistics come from Extended Measures of Well-Being: Living Conditions in the United States: 2011, a report based on the Survey of Income and Program Participation. The report measures well-being based on housing conditions, neighborhood conditions, community services, possession of specific types of appliances and electronic goods, the ability to meet basic needs and the expectation of help in meeting these needs ─ if necessary ─ from friends, family and the community. These measures are compared both across demographic groups and over time.

For example, the chart below shows the different hardships being faced by different age groups.

Click to Enlarge
What is interesting is how each group appears to place varying importance on different aspects of their lives. For example, among the youngest population (those 15 to 29 year old) the most common hardship they faced was unpaid utility bills. This was followed by not seeing a dentist when needed, and failing to pay their rent or mortgage. this is considerably different than the hardships facing the middle aged population (those 45 to 49 years old). Among middle aged Americans, the most common hardships faced were not seeing a dentist, not paying utilities, and not seeing a doctor when needed.

The report has many other insightful pieces and is well worth looking at. Unfortunately there is no locally comparative data.