Recent study demonstrates the economic insecurity of many Michigan families

'American Dream' at risk as expenses keep rising while available jobs are more and more in low-paying industries

In the words of Joan Kruiansky, executive director of Washington, D.C.-based Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW), “Sadly, far too few Michigan families are living in economically secure households, with most workers unable to stretch their incomes over basic services and savings”. Kruiansky’s provocative premise is based on the findings of a recent study entitled, “Basic Economic Security Tables for Michigan” which was conducted by WOW in conjunction with the Michigan League for Human Services and the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis. The study’s findings were released May 31, 2011.

The study defines economic security as being able to support a lifestyle including basic budget items essential to workers’ health and safety including: housing, utilities, food, and essential personal and household items such as clothing, household products, and a land-line phone. The report also considers a job to be a necessity for most family’s economic security and thus includes transportation costs as well as a basic level of childcare. Additionally, the authors of the study suggest that simply meeting basic needs is not enough to constitute the achievement of financial security, and thus include a certain level of emergency savings as well as retirement savings in its definition of economic security.

The study looks at the wages required in various Michigan counties as well as the city of Detroit for individuals and married couples with up to 6 children to be considered economically secure. On average throughout the state of Michigan, a single person without children must earn at least $12.24 an hour, or nearly $26,000 a year, to be considered economically secure. While two parents both working full time with a preschooler and a school-aged child must earn more than $25 an hour, or about $62,000 a year jointly to reach a level of economic security. Michigan’s minimum wage is currently $7.40 an hour.

According to Kruiansky, the study’s findings indicate that “The American Dream” of working hard to support your family is being rewritten by the growth of low-paying industries, rising expenses and reduced public support. According to the study’s authors, recent changes in the Michigan state budget, such as the reduction in the earned income tax credit for low-income workers, and the elimination of a clothing allowance for low-income children, will make it even harder for many families to reach economic security.

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