4 out of 5 Americans feel the sting of insecurity

Poverty, welfare and joblessness are striking every corner of the country, both whites and minorities.

By Aimee Picchi Jul 29, 2013 11:43AM

Man holding empty wallet (© CharlesSturge.com, Image Source, Getty Images)While many Americans still view their country as the land of opportunity, it's increasingly a place where citizens are more likely to have brushes with poverty than with wealth. 

About four out of five Americans will experience economic uncertainty during their lifetimes, encountering near poverty and joblessness or receiving government aid, The Associated Press reports.

The findings, based on survey data exclusive to AP, come as President Barack Obama says one of his goals is to rebuild opportunities for the middle class.

Poverty and economic turmoil are spreading among whites, the news service found, although racial and ethnic minorities are still more likely to live in poverty. More than 76% of white adults will be financially insecure by the time they turn 60, according to an economic measure that will be published next year by the Oxford University Press, AP noted. 

That may be one reason so many Americans are pessimistic about the economy despite reports that the country is recovering from the recession sparked by the 2008 financial meltdown. Indeed, more than half of Americans think that that country is still in a recession, according to a poll published Wednesday. Only about one-third believe it's over.

At the same time the economy has supposedly recovered, food stamp use has surged. About one in seven Americans now receives government aid to buy groceries. The $75 billion food stamp program is under fire from congressional Republicans, who are mulling a work requirement for recipients. 

Struggling whites are more pessimistic about the future than minorities, who are more hopeful after Obama's re-election, William Julius Wilson, a Harvard professor who studies poverty and race, told AP. 

"There is the real possibility that white alienation will increase if steps are not taken to highlight and address inequality on a broad front," Wilson said. 

About 19 million white people live in poverty, or about 44% of all Americans living below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census. In small rural towns, more than 60% of the poor are white, AP reported. 

While the economy is slowly rebounding, new job creation has occurred mainly in low-paying industries. Half of the jobs created so far during this recovery are low-wage positions, such as entry-level jobs at Wal-Mart (WMT) or McDonald's (MCD). America also now has a record 2.7 million temp workers, many of whom work for minimum wage and get no benefits from their employers. 

That is spreading insecurity across America, prompting Washington University professor Mark Rank to say: "Poverty is no longer an issue of 'them.' It's an issue of 'us.'"

Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi.

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Jul 29, 2013 12:08PM
Tens of trillions of dollars confiscated and spent to fight the "War on Poverty", and after a few decades, we're poorer now than we've ever been. 

Government and its massive wealth redistribution schemes isn't the answer to our problems, it is the problem.
Jul 29, 2013 1:00PM

The US is experiencing what happens to all the great empires throughout history. They eventually run their course and fail. Can you say British empire, Roman empire? Don't forget, the Netherlands was the richest country in the world when Columbus supposedly "discovered" America. Now what is it? A little country that no one hears from. Welcome to the new America, a third world toilet of corruption and incompetence. Every leader in Washington should be put in prison for life for what they have done to this once great nation.


Jul 29, 2013 12:31PM

Obama - quite a guy isn't he.

Everyone says Obama failed...not so...he succeeded in destroying any hope of economic recovery.

He succeeded in dividing this country both politically and racially in a way never seen before.

He succeeded in taking this once great country and turning it into the laughing stock of the world.


Just think...we have a few more years of successes like this.

Jul 29, 2013 12:11PM
Before the blame game starts and the political name-calling heats up,  lets just take a moment to remember that we're all in this together.  Your spending is my paycheck and vice versa.  We really need an honest, nuanced conversation on inequality of opportunity in this country.  Unfortunately, honesty and nuance aren't things our politicians and media do very well..
Jul 29, 2013 12:09PM
Jul 29, 2013 12:53PM
Redistribution has already happened, up not down.
Jul 29, 2013 11:57AM
I would think 98% would be more likely.
Jul 29, 2013 12:37PM

Thanks for voting for Obumma!  We have BIG problems in this country.  I am not here to blame JUST Democrats either.  The whole Republican v Democrat thing is to me a simple set up to distract you from the fact that the "party" that really runs things is going to do what they need to do, and get who they need to get into office one way or the other.


What we have is a problem with those who really run things controlling the media, and everything else. We need people to think critically, and not let them divide the people based on political party, race etc.  We are definitely under attack by all those in the BIG $$ industries.  Oil, pharma (rx drugs), Banks/Lenders, politicians etc. 


The problem is all the corruption and greed deeply woven into the fabric of this country.  It make take a lot of time and some serious action to ever be able to correct it.  Start by waking up, and spending time thinking about what you hear, versus what makes sense.  THINK!


Jul 29, 2013 12:15PM

Why are there only 2 groups of people being considered for this study/article?


"Whites or minorities"


Seriously, there are more than 2 groups of people out there!

Jul 29, 2013 12:11PM
Are the minorities more hopeful for jobs or more handouts?
Jul 29, 2013 1:03PM
Tens of Trillions of Dollars confiscated to fight the war on Poverty really puts a dumb spin on what has really happened over the last few decades. What has REALLY happened is Massive redistribution of Wealth from the Poor and Middle-Class to the already Wealthy and Elite. The Wage Gap bears that out regardless of any Metrics you try and use. Wage gap has move from 40 to 1 to over 400 to 1 yet watch how many idiots rec just the opposite.

There has been massive Wealth Redistribution, and it has gone strictly to the very top. Corporate America is the problem, the folks in Government are just the puppets.

Jul 29, 2013 12:31PM
Jul 29, 2013 1:39PM

Complex problems have simple, easy to understand, wrong answers. This isn't about whites vs. minorities. It isn't about young vs. old. It isn't even about the formerly middle class vs. everyone else. In fact, it isn't even a U.S. Exclusive problem. The bottom line is:


Business has become very greedy, and has been allowed (by consumers as well as governments) to make record breaking profits each quarter (oil, sugar, grain, companies, etc.) for the shareholders to enjoy.


Lobbyists in D.C. are allowed to do what no other American citizen can; it's legalized bribery.


The U.S. government... and governments of other countries... have failed (epically) to hear the voices of those who elected them, and what's worse, they really don't care. The polarization of parties is global.


Many U.S. government programs have needed overhauling for decades; they simply aren't sustainable. We've seen this with other countries, and yet somehow think we're immune to the economic realities of Greece, Spain, etc.


Poor performance is rewarded with bail out funds and other government perks, rather than allowing failure... which, in the long term, improves the overall health of banking, commerce, etc.


Printing more money only serves to shift attention away from the hemorrhage. Voters don't want more taxes. Government doesn't want to do the heavy lifting necessary to overhaul its programs. No one wants to "go without" in the short term for better long term fiscal health. 

Jul 29, 2013 12:43PM
Just print a couple trillion dollars and give to all American citizens; instant millionaires, problem solved. Worked for bailing out banks and poorly run businesses.
Jul 29, 2013 1:00PM
China will save us. rice is on the way.
Jul 29, 2013 1:04PM
Jul 29, 2013 1:19PM

everyone is greedy and votes whats best for themselves in the short term.

A future for all cannot be built on the best choices for one.

Sometimes It must be understood that for all to have a chance , someone must give that chance.

Handouts destroy people, but complete education  health care , vacation, retetirement is not a handout if WE ALL work towards it.  All the sucessful nations offer a life worth living and striving for, to build a nation fit to live in.  We can slide down to a crime ridden third world has been nation , or we can stand up like Switzerland , Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Germany and many other nations that we send triilions of dollars of corporate profits to. They are smarter than we are, by investing in a future , they have one. All we have is freedom , to what?

Jul 29, 2013 12:04PM

"By The Associated Press

Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near-poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream. Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor, and the loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend. The findings come as President Barack Obama tries to renew his administration's emphasis on the economy, saying in recent speeches that his highest priority is to "rebuild ladders of opportunity" and reverse income inequality."

This is- FAILURE. Anyone wants to take sides and point to Democrats or Republicans or Obama or Congress or whoever... STOP. Point at EVERY SINGLE PERSON engaging in market investing while Ben Bernanke arranges the end of America. Globalization is an EXCUSE. There isn't ONE real business in America today-- they all look and operate the same... a small group of educated paper and button pushers playing administrative games without actually conducting enterprise of any kind. If they want to play, they HAVE to PAY and release us 100% from the obligations that are destroying our nation. We could EASILY be building a 21st Century nation with sustainability and commonsense infrastructure instead of deadhead business practices. What the HELL are we able to do with 300,000 new millionaires a week, except to EAT THEM?

Jul 29, 2013 12:56PM

If more than only 50% of the middle class voted we wouldn`t have so much corporate

welfare and tax breaks for the rich.

Jul 29, 2013 2:22PM
There is no comparison between people living near the poverty line in this country and the really poor people you see in developing countries. Most of people living near the poverty line in this country seem to have cell phones, buy lotto tickets and fast food, and own cars.  Many receive some form of government assistance.

I don't object to the government helping those who truly need assistance. We also need to help the children whose only fault is being born into these circumstances.  However, far too many welfare recipients don't really need help.  They've simply figured out how to game the system, which not only cheats taxpayers, but also hurts the people who need help the most.

1. Any able-bodied unemployed person who receives government assistance (Medicaid, SNAP, housing, etc.) should be required to perform community service.  By the same token, businesses whose employees do not earn enough to keep them off Medicaid or SNAP should be required to partially reimburse the government for these payments. 

2. Another major issue is disability fraud.  Anyone receiving disability payments from Social Security should have to re-apply each year, to prove that they are still disabled and deserve to receive payments.  Any lawyer filing a fraudulent disability claim should be disbarred.

3. The government should require random drug tests for anyone receiving government assistance.  It's difficult for drug addicts to get or keep a job, so they continue to be funded by taxpayers.

4. There need to be caps on farm subsidies. The way it is now, 95% of the subsidies go to the top 5% wealthiest farmers.  

5. We need to eliminate or cap all other forms of corporate welfare.  Most corporate subsidies and tax breaks were created years ago and might have actually made sense at the time. However, corporate welfare costs taxpayers as much or more than all of the poverty programs combined.

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