Rising Cost of Essentials Slams Poor Families

Prices of "core" items are rising twice as fast as wages
By Jim O'Neill,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 21, 2008 1:35 PM CDT
Rising Cost of Essentials Slams Poor Families
High gas prices are seen posted at a Shell gas station in Menlo Park, Calif.   (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

The rising price of essentials and sluggish growth in wages mean that inflation is hitting low- to middle-income families hardest, the Washington Post reports. Americans are paying 9.2% more for staples—groceries, gas, health care, etc.— than they did in 2006, nearly twice the pace of the growth in wages. Prices for luxury items—restaurant meals, new cars, etc.—are also rising, but not nearly as fast.

"The idea that you can understand the kind of budget constraints that middle-class families face by looking at overall inflation is wrong," said one economist. "You have to look at the core items a middle-class family buys." A family earning $45,000 is spending an average of $253 more on groceries per year, $378 more on gas, $204 on health care, and $38 to heat their home. (Read more food prices stories.)

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