1 in 3 Working Adults in the United States is Economically Insecure

Press Release

October 11, 2018
Contact: Jennifer Clark | 202-785-5100 | clark@iwpr.org


New national and state-level analysis finds that 3 in 4 families headed by single mothers experience economic insecurity

Washington, DC—New national and state-by-state research by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) finds that 33 percent of working adults in the United States do not have enough income to meet their basic monthly expenses—such as housing, food, transportation, and child care expenses—and save for emergencies and retirement.

The findings are based on new data analysis updating the Basic Economic Security Tables (BEST) Index, which provides a measure of how much income working adults of different family types need to be economically secure in each state and county in the United States. New Hampshire, Ohio, and South Dakota have the highest rates of basic economic security, while California, New York, and Hawaii have the lowest rates. The BEST Index takes into account the costs of basic needs in each state and county in the United States, showing different rates of economic insecurity than reflected by poverty rates, which are not locally or regionally adjusted.

Those who are more likely to experience economic insecurity include people of color and families headed by single mothers, while White men and married couples without children are most likely to be able to meet basic economic security expenses.

IWPR Associate Director of Research Cynthia Hess commented on the findings:

“Too many working adults, particularly single moms and people of color, are not able to cover basic monthly expenses for housing, food, transportation, and child care, while saving for their future. Policies to increase low-wage workers’ earnings and benefits, such as paid family leave and affordable child care, could help ease the economic strain facing many families around the country.”

Additional findings from analysis of the BEST Index include:

Living above the federal poverty threshold is not necessarily enough for basic economic security.

  • To experience basic economic security according to the BEST Index, a single working adult in the United States needs an income of $33,012 per year (with employment-based benefits), which is nearly triple the current federal poverty line of $12,752 for a single adult under age 65.
  • A single working parent with one infant needs $50,916 per year, more than triple the federal poverty line of $16,895 for a household with one adult and one child.

The share of working adults who are economically secure varies widely by state.

  • Best States for Economic Security: New Hampshire, Ohio, South Dakota, Iowa, and Connecticut have the highest share of working adults who are economically secure.
  • Worst States for Economic Security: California, New York, Hawaii, Oregon, and Florida have the lowest share of working adults who are economically secure.
  • A single working adult needs $24,648 (with benefits) to live with economic security in South Dakota, but $50,508 to live in the District of Columbia, the areas with the lowest and highest annual incomes necessary for basic economic security for this family type.

To download a fact sheet with data on basic economic security by household type and race/ethnicity in your state, visit iwpr.org/BEST.

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that conducts and communicates research to inspire public dialogue, shape policy, and improve the lives and opportunities of women of diverse backgrounds, circumstances, and experiences.


Visit iwpr.org/BEST for national, state, and county data on basic economic security in the United States.

Find state data on the status of women at statusofwomendata.org. >>

Follow IWPR on Twitter @IWPResearch and Facebook.

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