The High Cost of Being Poor: Essay From the 2003 KIDS COUNT Data Book

Another Perspective on Helping Low-Income Families Get By and Get Ahead

By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

January 1, 2003

Summary

Help a family, help a child. This belief — that strong, stable families are good for America’s children — is a prevailing tenet of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s seminal KIDS COUNT project. It is also the framework for this essay, which explores the unsettling link between poverty and paying more for basic goods and services. Readers will learn how this inequity cripples low-income working households, what is being done to correct this imbalance and details of Casey’s four-part plan to help these families succeed.

Table of Contents

Key Takeaway

Chasing the American dream is unfairly costly for our nation’s working poor

Many low-income households pay far too much for life’s basic necessities — everything from groceries and auto insurance to child care. Even worse, support for this demographic often vanishes when earnings rise, essentially negating the benefits of a bigger paycheck. We can do more to help these struggling families move from “just scraping by” to saving money, building assets and getting ahead. 

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