Fewer Americans Can Afford Food, Shelter Now Than in Recession

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Households are having more trouble paying for basic necessities now than during the recession, one study shows, offering further proof the economic recovery has been anything but for many Americans.

Fewer Americans had enough money to pay for food and shelter in September of this year than the same month in 2008, according to Gallup’s monthly survey of more than 29,000 adults. Just 80.1% of those surveyed could afford to buy food for their family last month and 89.8% could afford housing, both of which were down 1 percentage point from September 2008, in the middle of the recession.

Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans with access to basic medical health care has declined at an even faster rate. Some 78.3% of those surveyed had a personal doctor last month and only 64% had visited a dentist in the previous year, down by 4.2 percentage points and 2.6 percentage points, respectively. This is likely due to dwindling funds for many households, combined with the fact that the percentage of Americans with health insurance has dropped by 3.6 percentage points.

On the whole, Gallup’s Basic Access Index, which factors in these and other criteria, stood at 81.4 in September. That’s roughly on par with what the index was in February 2009 when the unemployment rate first jumped above 8% and continued to skyrocket throughout the year.

“Although the vast majority of Americans still report that they are not having trouble accessing basic necessities, the trend is currently going in the wrong direction,” Gallup writes in its report.

The numbers show just how much the fiscal lives of Americans have worsened since the recession ended even as the economy as a whole was supposed to have improved. As Gallup points out, much of this is due to the fact that incomes are falling and unemployment is stuck above 9%, driving more households into poverty.

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