The disconnect between President Trump’s boasting about his economic policies and the reality of working-class Americans continues to grow.

A new study from the Urban Institute published Monday found that, despite the consistent decrease in the unemployment rate, modest gains in wage growth, and other positive economic indicators, millions of working-class Americans still have significant difficulty in affording the most basic needs like housing, food, and healthcare.

38.5% of American adults between the ages of 18 and 64 reported experiencing a “material hardship” in 2018, meaning they had difficulty paying for essential needs during part of the year. The Urban Institute reports this is statistically no different than 2017, when 39.3% of Americans reported a material hardship.

There were also no statistical differences in the number of Americans who reported being unable to pay for utilities like water and electricity, or having one or more of those utilities shut off due to lack of payment. And the share of Americans who reported being unable to make at least one rent or mortgage payment, or the share of Americans who couldn’t afford enough food for their families (food insecurity), also remained statistically unchanged in 2018 compared to 2017.

But even middle-class households making at least 200% above the federal poverty line reported financial hardships during 2018. In addition to experiencing food insecurity, roughly one in seven U.S. families reported experiencing difficulties in paying medical bills, or reported going without medical care due to high costs.

“These findings underscore that, though employment is a critical determinant of families’ ability to meet basic needs, it is not the only factor, and additional policies will be necessary to significantly ‘move the needle’ in reducing material hardship,” the study read.

The Urban Institute’s new report is a sharp contrast to the picture painted by President Trump as recently as Monday morning when he boasted about economic data showing that U.S. Gross Domestic Product increased by 3.2% in the first quarter of 2019. He also said his trade war with China contributed to that growth.

“Some people just don’t get it!” Trump tweeted.

Republicans appear to be banking on America’s economic growth in their goal of maintaining the presidency in 2020. Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel bragged over the weekend that “Republicans and @realDonaldTrump are delivering for Americans,” citing job growth and unemployment statistics.

However, as Grit Post’s editorial board has previously written, good jobs numbers don’t necessarily translate to a positive economic climate if working-class Americans need to have multiple jobs just to pay for basic needs. And the Urban Institute’s new report appears to confirm that good economic data hasn’t done much to improve the lives of typical American workers.


Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.

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