How Living Expenses are Burning Through American Pockets

By Luca Cantagallo, AGE 14

Time lapse photography of several burning US dollar banknotes. Credit: JP Valery.

You may have noticed the frequent use of the word “inflation” in recent years. Inflation has evolved into a serious issue that spans across generations, races and socioeconomic classes alike. This escalating cost of living affects everyone. 

Millennials, aspiring to start families and build their wealth, are increasingly excluded from the real estate market due to a shortage of affordable housing. For most of them, this adds to the already crippling debt from college loans. Those who are retired are also quickly realizing that their pension isn’t enough to carry them through the rest of their lives. Most are already burning through their retirement funds at an alarmingly fast rate. The current market particularly burdens families as they struggle to keep up with basic necessities such as food, healthcare, and sometimes education for their children. All this and more still doesn’t include housing for their families. 

Children living in low-income households are often negatively impacted by their living conditions. A study by the Children’s Bureau of Southern California states, “In addition to brain development and health risks associated with holding low-socioeconomic status, a child’s mental health is at risk of being greatly affected as well. Low-income parents and children are more likely to be affected by challenges with mental health and mental illness.” The high cost of living in the United States can be a vicious cycle that can surpass generations, sometimes ceasing upward economic mobility and generational wealth. This is what allows the rich to maintain their social status and force low-income families further into debt.   

Some solutions to combat high living costs in low-income housing include improving housing voucher programs, administered by public housing authorities throughout the United States, which assist low-income renters in making their payments and reduce housing instability, and supporting nonprofit community land trusts, which purchase and maintain land for affordable housing, sharing ownership of land and home value, and reducing the cost of homeownership for occupants. These are just two of the many ways that we can help combat the pressure of the high living costs on low-income U.S. households. 

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