Naked City

Barely Making It

A report recently issued by the Center for Public Policy Priorities provides data confirming that a substantial number of Texans are working full time yet remain unable to meet basic family expenses. "Making It: What It Really Takes to Live in Texas," reports that a single parent in Austin with one child will pay at least $200 for food and nearly $400 for child care each month. Combined with housing, medical costs, transportation, and other simple necessities, total monthly expenses for this single parent family total more than $2,462. To meet these needs, the parent would need to earn $17 per hour, or $33,819 per year, unless an array of employment benefits, nonprofit services, and government resources are available to supplement her lower wages.

CPPP Executive Director Dianne Stewart said the report's findings point to a growing problem in Texas and in the U.S. "The America we hold in our hearts and minds offers family economic security to anyone willing to work for it," Stewart said. "As recently as the 1980s, one full-time, minimum-wage job could lift a family of three out of poverty. Since 1982, however ... the purchasing power of the minimum wage has slipped farther and farther below the poverty line.

"Family economic well-being requires individual effort, but when families with two parents working three jobs still are not able to meet basic needs, something else is also required," Stewart concluded. "We must develop a new paradigm for family security that makes good on our common belief that hard work brings prosperity -- or at least basic sustenance." The full report is available at www.cppp.org.

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