Single Parents Are Racking Up Debt & Skipping Meals

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 05/23/2022 - 9:25pm

Single Parents Are Racking Up Debt & Skipping Meals

When will it stop? The prices of rent, gas, utilities and groceries has gone through the roof. marched higher over the past year; but wages have not kept up – and more than half of single parents make less than $15 an hour, according to recent research from Oxfam.

That has left many single parents skipping meals so their children have plenty of food, providing less healthy meals for their families, and culling expenses to the point where any unforeseen cost could mean more debt – or worse.

For these families, whose finances often have slim-to-no wiggle room, inflation – coupled with the end of federal relief efforts like enhanced child tax credit payments – is compounding the financial strain.

“It’s a really tricky game to figure out what can I do, what can I not do and how can I squeeze a little more money here and there?,” said Elisabeth Mendes Saigg, 33, whose husband passed away from sudden heart failure in 2020 at the age of 37. Mendes Saigg was left to raise their two-year-old son, Khayonni, on her own.

Living Paycheck to Paycheck

In March, about 30% of single parents surveyed by Morning Consult said their household finances were worse than average, versus just over 22% of all adults.

During the 12-month period that ended in March 2022, single-parent households say they made about 16% less than adults overall per month and spent about 8% less per month, according to Morning Consult data.

While adults overall consistently report a solid gap between average monthly spending and income, single parents have a much narrower difference, said John Leer, chief economist at Morning Consult.

“If there are no variables to our month, no one has to go to the doctor, no one has to go to the dentist … then all of my bills get paid with less than $100 left over every month. If there is a variable of something going wrong, then something always gets paid late,” said Shae Beery, a 44-year-old Nashville, Tennessee, resident who has raised her now 10-year-old son, Kingston, on her own.

Fears of a Recession

While the Biden administration and the Federal Reserve look to address rising prices, families are bracing for the potential of a recession – and higher interest rates – as part of that solution.

Key inflation data set to be released this week, including the latest Consumer Price Index data on Wednesday, will likely provide further indication that high costs aren’t going away any time soon.

That’s pushing the Fed to keep hiking its benchmark interest rate in an attempt to cool down the economy. But while that may reduce consumer demand, it will also ramp up the cost of borrowing – and that will hit hardest for families who lean more on credit cards or other loans to get by each month.

“The likelihood of us experiencing an additional downturn is increasing right now, which is going to likely expose some of those most vulnerable households,” Morning Consult’s Leer said. 

“One bad month is enough to set some people back,” she said, adding that she is anticipating the increased demand to remain for at least the next few years.

“When individuals fall into food insecurity and poverty, it’s very cyclical, difficult to escape and hard to get back on your feet,” she said.

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