Working Poor Families Struggle to Pay Bills

There’s a Direct relationship between poverty, obesity, and the cost of health care.

Here’s some statistics, mostly from the 2010 census:

  • 15.1% of Americans (46.2 million) live in poverty, including 22% of our children. 20% live in extreme poverty.
  • 3.2 million Americans were kept out of poverty by unemployment insurance.
  • 20.3 million were kept out of poverty by social security.
  • The poverty threshold for a family of four is $22,113; the 2010 avg. income of the bottom 90% was $26.364.
  • $6,298 — decline in median working-age household income from 2000 to 2010.
  • 49.1 million — number of people under 65 without any health insurance.
  • 13.6 million — decline in people under 65 with employer-sponsored health insurance from 2000-2010.
  • Public health officials can accurately predict obesity and longevity rates by zip codes. One inner city example had an average lifespan of just 64 years while it was 90 years in a wealthier neighborhood just 8 miles away. (HBO’s documentary, The Weight of the Nation)
  • Disadvantaged communities are at higher risk for many preventable health conditions, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis B and C, and infant mortality, largely due to the lack of health care, nutritious food at affordable prices, and sidewalks and parks to encourage exercise.
  • Pressures from Job, Money, Divorce and Violence cause a vicious cycle of Stress = Obesity = Stress.

Tech innovation and automation also plays a role, increasing productivity and profits for some, but eliminating jobs faster than creating new ones. Dr. Oz apparently agrees, as shown in this article, which also features a CBS report on the jobs impact of robotics and a collection of slides that I recently presented to a local jobs group.

2 thoughts on “Working Poor Families Struggle to Pay Bills

  1. Why We Don’t Need a Second ‘War on Poverty’ (At Least Not Now)” is a related article on Huffington Post. I added the following three comments:

    1 – Economic development once depended on the availability of a skilled, healthy and productive workforce, but not so much so today. Multinational corporations see greater market opportunities offshore and can invest in tech innovation and automation to get more work done with less people. These new technologies have greatly increased productivity, and the profits now flow to the top rather than be shared with the more productive workers. For several views on the impact of technology and automation on future jobs, see

    2 – The author offered several reasonable solutions but made no mention of the need for a MUCH more progressive tax code that extends beyond basic income tax rates. Other needs include campaign finance reform, leveling the regulatory playing field for small business & entrepreneurs, protecting unions & collective bargaining, universal healthcare, STEM education, and closing the digital divide. As tech innovation increases productivity, the profits flow to the top, and old jobs are made obsolete faster than new ones are created and new skills are developed.

    3 – Poverty decreases our nation’s productivity, GDP, and tax revenue, thus affecting wealth creation and the tax burden at the top. At the same time, poverty increases the need for and cost of tax-funded social programs and healthcare. Obesity is a big contributor (excuse the pun), and it’s telling that public health officials can reliably estimate average weight and obesity levels by zip code. They have also noticed marked differences in average lifespan between low-income and affluent neighborhoods on opposite sides of the same town. See


    Watch this TED Talk about Poverty, asking “What if our healthcare system kept us healthy?”

    Pop-up clinics trying to bridge America’s health divide — This excellent article from the guardian features mobile clinics serving southwest Virginia. It’s a telling expose’ of how the wealth divide applies to health and healthcare.

    Why do so many people lack access to fresh food? WFAA, an ABC affiliate

    My Reality: A Hidden America (an ABC News 20/20 report by Diane Sawyer, 1/13/2017)

    * $56,516 is the annual median household income in the United States. (US Census Bureau)
    * MOST (68%) of the country’s income growth since 1980 went to the top 10% of earners. (National Bureau of Economic Research)
    * NONE (0%) of the country’s income growth since 1980 went to the entire bottom half of earners. (National Bureau of Economic Research)
    * 117 Million Americans saw their income fall or keep up with inflation in almost four decades. That is half of the country. (National Bureau of Economic Research)
    * JUST 45% of middle-income millennials earn more than their parents did at the same age, adjusted for inflation. A half-century ago, 93% of middle income Americans earned more than their parents had. (National Bureau of Economic Research)
    * ONLY 50% of Americans are middle class. In 1971, it was 61%. (Pew Research Center)
    * 92 metro areas where lack affordable housing for families making a median household income. (Center for Housing Policy)
    * 53% of Americans say they don’t have enough savings to cover three months of living expenses if they lose their job. (Federal Reserve Survey, 2015)
    * 56% of the fastest growing new jobs pay under $12/hour, on average. (Bureau of Labor Statistics, analyzed by ABC News)
    * 73% of public assistance goes to working families (UC Berkeley Labor Center)

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