October 18, 2018
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A third of Mainers don’t make enough to cover monthly expenses, study finds

Keith Srakocic | AP
Keith Srakocic | AP
U.S. middle-class household incomes rose for the third straight year in 2017, as more Americans are working and the number of people with full-time jobs increased. In Maine, however, only 70 percent of working men and women are making enough to meet monthly expanses and save some for the future.

Only 70 percent of Maine’s workers earn enough to cover basic monthly expenses plus save a little for the future, a new study found.

The other 30 percent who lack economic security include people of color and families headed by single mothers, according to the study by the Washington, D.C., nonprofit Institute for Women’s Policy Research.

White men and married couples without children are the most likely to meet basic expenses.

The findings are based on a new data analysis of the Basic Economic Security Tables Index. The BEST Index ranks Maine 23rd among the 50 states and District of Columbia for economic security, while neighboring New Hampshire as well as Connecticut are among the states with the highest rates of economic security.

Basic expenses include housing, food, transportation and child care. Future savings include emergencies and retirement.

Maine’s numbers follow the national trend that 33 percent of working men and women ages 19 to 64 are economically insecure.

“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,” Cynthia Hess, associate director of research at IWPR, said in a prepared comment. “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.”

To reach basic economic security in Maine, a single working adult must earn $31,284. A single parent with one infant must make $48,372. And two working adults with one infant and one preschooler must earn $74,616.

The single working adult earning $31,284 would shell out $704 per month for housing and utilities, $267 for food, $469 for transportation, $360 for personal and household items, $164 for health care, $89 for emergency savings, $78 for retirement savings and $476 for taxes. That comes to $2,607 monthly or $14.81 hourly.

A single working adult with employer benefits, including health insurance and a retirement plan, needs to make $14.81 per hour for full-time work. The minimum wage in Maine is $10 per hour, and will be increased to $11 per hour in January 2019. A working adult with one preschooler and one school-aged child needs an hourly wage of $28.96 to get by, the report said.

A single adult working full time without benefits would need an hourly wage of $15.95, or income of $2,807 a month or $33,684 per year, to be economically secure.

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