Principal Investigator:
Miguel Ferguson, Ph.D.

Duration: 1/2004 – 12/2004

Working poor families face difficult tradeoffs when their incomes cannot keep up with the cost of necessities. Strategies for coping include doubling up with relatives or friends in overcrowded housing or changing addresses frequently because of or to avoid eviction. Families skip meals or turn to food pantries and meal kitchens at the end of the month when Food Stamps run out. Many low-income working families with no health insurance rely on emergency rooms for even routine medical care, often accumulating sizeable medical debt, while their children lack proper immunizations. Without insurance, these families have virtually no means to address mental health needs, which the stress of economic insecurity can exacerbate. In many working poor families, older children bear responsibility for younger siblings, without adult supervision, while their parents work. These families drive without car insurance and lack the resources for necessary maintenance. Not uncommonly, working poor households accumulate mounting credit card debt at sub-prime interest rates when family earnings fall short of what is needed to pay for basic or major unexpected expenses.

The Tough Choices project will accumulate information on working families with incomes between 100%-200% of the federal poverty level. Data collection will take place through a series of six interviews with each participant family. Each interview will collect narrative accounts of hardships currently being experienced by participating families.

Hogg Foundation for Mental Health

Keywords: welfare reform, persistent poverty