2023 Expenses Outpacing Income, Americans Say

Empty wallet | Image by Marco de Benedictis

The majority of Americans say their household expenses have outpaced their income over the last year.

More than 60% of Americans say their household expenses have jumped this year, but only 25% say their wages have risen in the same period, according to a wide-ranging new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

“As household expenses outpace earnings, the public is not very confident they can keep up with their day-to-day expenditures or save for retirement,” said AP-NORC Center Senior Fellow Marjorie Connelly.

“In general, the public has a poor view of the national economy,” Connelly told The Dallas Express. “While most people see their own personal financial situation in a positive light, most adults under 30 are more pessimistic, with 60% saying their finances are in bad shape.”

Although the economy may look good on paper, Steve Shapiro, a 61-year-old audio engineer in Pittsburgh, said his “income has stayed the same,” and he’s finding it difficult to get by due to high prices.

Shapiro explained that his grocery expenses used to average around $100 a week, but persistent inflation in the U.S. over the last year has caused his grocery bill to jump closer to $200.

“I’m not doing great,” he told AP News.

According to the latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) report, food prices have increased by 3.7% over the last year and have risen 0.2% consecutively over the previous three months.

While the prices of food items like eggs (-14.5%), butter (-4%), and cheese products (-2.8%) have come down from their 2023 peaks, data shows that other items like frozen vegetables (+11.6%), frozen non-carbonated drinks (+21.3%), and white bread (+7.8%), have maintained their elevated prices.

Getting ahead on debt/loan payments can be a considerable challenge for many Americans, particularly when persistent inflation and the highest interest rates in decades are eating away at the consumer’s purchasing and spending power.

Furthermore, growing household debt from credit cards, auto loans, and medical expenses has caused many Americans to set aside their dreams of owning a home or eventually retiring.

According to the poll, about 80% of Americans said their household debt has risen over the last year, about 50% said they are strapped with credit card debt, and roughly 25% face medical debt.

San Antonio-based sub-contractor Tracy Gonzales, 36, is still working to pay off thousands of dollars of medical debt she incurred from an emergency room visit.

“They’ll treat you, but the bills are crazy,” she said, per AP News.

In March 2022, the Federal Reserve embarked on its most aggressive tightening cycle in decades. While the Fed has made some progress against inflation, consumer prices are still too high for many Americans to feel confident about their future.

“I’ve been looking forward to retirement my entire life,” said Shapiro, per AP News. However, he said it recently dawned on him that he would not be able to make retirement a reality.

He explained that his wife’s $30,000 or so of student debt was a major financial factor for his household and his eventual retirement.

As Americans struggle to get a stable financial footing, many are turning to their elected representatives for help, but Connelly says they’re split on who’s better able to deal with inflation in the country.

There are strong partisan divisions on the subject, with two-thirds of Republicans trusting their party to handle inflation and more than half of Democrats counting on their party to take care of the problem, Connelly told The Dallas Express.  

Poll results showed that 68% of Americans disapprove of President Joe Biden’s handling of the federal budget, 67% disapprove of his handling of the economy, and 58% are dissatisfied with how he’s handled student debt.

A representative sample of 1,163 adults nationwide participated in the AP-NORC Center poll from October 5 to 9. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

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