(CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS ACTION FUND) Arkadi Gerney, Anna Chu, Brendan Duke — American families have experienced dramatic changes over the past few decades. It used to be common that one middle-class income was enough to meet the needs of an entire family—money enough to send kids to college, buy a home, and save for retirement. Today, most families need two incomes to make ends meet. But even as families are working harder and harder, they are struggling and feeling economically insecure.
Although corporate profits are at all-time highs and the richest Americans have seen the bulk of the gains in the recovery, working- and middle-class families continue to struggle. The lack of support for families and the challenges of stagnant wages and the ever-rising middle-class costs have placed tremendous strains on most Americans. The research bears out what families are experiencing. The Center for American Progress recently estimated that the real cost of middle-class security—that is to say, health care, college savings, child care, housing, and a retirement nest egg—rose $10,600, or 30 percent, between 2000 and 2012, a period when the median married couple with two children saw no real income growth. (see Figure 1) The result has been that American families are being squeezed more and more as middle-class costs rise faster than middle-class incomes.