South Dakotans Continue to See Neighbors Struggling to Make Ends Meet – Are Very Concerned – But Remain Hopeful of Improvement
Northwest Area Foundation National Survey Reveals: *One-half say it takes at least $40,000 annually to meet basic standard of living needs for a family of four. *Nearly half say they know people working two or more jobs who are struggling to make ends meet, and their priority is to help them. *Those living near or on an American Indian reservation are more likely to see people struggling. *Nearly all South Dakotans, 94 percent, say it is important for elected officials to help those struggling to make ends meet.
ST. PAUL, Minn. (April 30, 2007) – A nationwide survey released today by the Northwest Area Foundation reveals half of Americans, including 53 percent of South Dakotans, perceive “a lot” of people are struggling to make ends meet. Whether it might be plant closings, outsourcing of jobs to other countries, default of subprime loans or lack of access to living wage jobs, South Dakotans say they are aware of their neighbors’ tough grind. Many of those facing tough times are working full time. More than half of South Dakotans, 52 percent, say they regularly come into contact with people who are struggling to make ends meet, whether that would be through church, work, or elsewhere.
“This survey shows us that despite an improved national economy, there are those who are not prospering,” said Karl Stauber, president and CEO of the Northwest Area Foundation, which commissioned the study. “We need to look behind the job growth data to the quality of jobs available. Americans need living wage jobs in order to meet basic needs, so they’re no longer waging the paycheck-to-paycheck battle that keeps them struggling, every week and every month.”
South Dakotans’ steady concern about those struggling to make ends meet comes at a time when more than 30 percent of all households in the state have an annual income that falls below $25,000, which surpasses the national average of 26.9 percent with and annual income below $25,000. More than nine percent of people in the state report holding two ore more jobs, which is nearly double that of the rest of the nation.
The survey found for the second year in a row an overwhelming majority of South Dakotans, 85 percent, say it takes at least $30,000 for a family to meet basic needs, and half agreed with the majority of Americans who say it takes at least $40,000 (twice the federal poverty threshold of $20,444 per year). The stronger survey results may have to do with an increased sample size of this year’s poll. While the number of national interviews remained the same as the 2005 survey, oversamples in South Dakota doubled from 200 to 400.
Hard work doesn’t translate into prosperity Even in an era of a strong stock market and economic growth, many who are working hard don’t share in the prosperity. Nearly one of every two South Dakotans, 47 percent, say they know people who are working full time, yet are still struggling to make ends meet. Two-thirds, 66 percent, say they know people in their communities who are working two or more jobs and are still struggling to make ends meet.
“People are beginning to realize that poverty is an issue,” said Kari Fruechte of South Dakota Cooperative Extension. “The way poverty shows itself in South Dakota is not always very clear because people are conditioned to cover it up. People in poverty often look very much like people not in poverty.”
Financial difficulties hit people who are living in all geographic areas – rural, urban, small cities and towns. In South Dakota, people living on or near American Indian reservations are more likely to report “a lot” of people struggling to make ends meet.
When asked how much a family of four needs each year to meet basic standards of living in their communities, people across the United States and in South Dakota cited slightly higher figures than they did last year: How much income would you say a family of four needs to earn in a year in order to make ends meet in your community? At least $10,000 2% At least $20,000 11% At least $30,000 35% At least $40,000 30% More than $40,000 20% (NOTE: U.S. federal poverty threshold for a family of four in 2006 was $20,444 per year.)
South Dakotans willing to take action A majority of respondents say they are willing to do more, pay more and hold elected officials accountable for helping those who are struggling to make ends meet. This year’s survey found a slight six-point increase in the percentage of Americans who say they keep these issues in mind at the voting booth. Seventy-seven percent in South Dakota said they think about how well a candidate would help those struggling to make ends meet.
Expectations for local elected officials Most South Dakotans, 86 percent, say they are satisfied with the way things are going in their communities. Yet, nearly all state residents polled say they believe that elected officials hold a key role in improving conditions for all. Ninety-four percent say it is important for local elected officials to help people who are struggling to make ends meet.
The survey shows people have clear priorities for their elected officials: good jobs and access to health care remain high on the list. More than three-quarters of South Dakotans, 82 percent, say attracting and keeping well-paying jobs should be a top priority for their elected officials, while healthcare concerns followed as a close second at 75 percent.
South Dakotans willing to help At the same time a majority of South Dakotans feels the number of people going through hard times can be reduced. Seventy-one percent of people in the state said they would be very or somewhat likely to pay higher taxes if it would help people in their communities. Most people said they would be willing to do at least one of the following items to help those who are struggling to make ends meet: How likely would you be to: Join with others in your community to discuss ways to help those struggling to make ends meet: National 73% South Dakota 79% Take part in a church project to help people struggling to make ends meet: National 82% South Dakota 88% Adopt a family in need to help them from time to time: National 65% South Dakota 63% Pay $50 more a year in taxes if it would go to programs in your own community that help people struggling to make ends meet: National 64% South Dakota 71% Talk to elected officials in your community about people’s struggle to make ends meet: National 69% South Dakota 73%
Further, South Dakotans are optimistic about the ability of people in their communities to reduce the number of people who are struggling to get by. This optimism may stem from the belief that there are many capable people with valuable skills in the community. More than three-quarters, 86 percent, believe the number of people struggling to make ends meet could be reduced. Ninety-six percent of respondents say their community effectively deals with local problems at least some of the time.
The Northwest Area Foundation is dedicated to helping communities reduce poverty for the long term. The Foundation works on strategic efforts with a small number of rural, urban, and American Indian reservation communities, and the organizations supporting these efforts, in its eight-state region: Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. These states were served by the Great Northern Railway, founded by James J. Hill. In 1934, Hill’s son, Louis W. Hill established the Foundation. Since 1999, the Foundation has invested approximately $193 million in community-based poverty-reduction programs. It expects to invest an estimated additional $75 million within the next two years, at which time it will have completed its first 10 years of operation under a community-based program model. The Foundation does not accept unsolicited grant requests.
The Northwest Area Foundation commissioned Lake Research Partners (LRP) to conduct a national tracking survey to explore the public’s perception of poverty in one’s own community, attitudes toward the roles of local elected officials, and ways in which to address the issue. The survey was conducted among 4,000 Americans age 18 and older, from March 2-22, 2007. A total of 800 interviews were conducted nationally, and oversamples of 400 were conducted in each of the following eight states: Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. The oversamples were weighted down to reflect their true proportion in the country. The margin of error is +/-3.5 percentage points for national results and +/-5.0 points for state results. This is the second survey of its kind, replicating a study Northwest Area Foundation and LRP conducted in December 2005.
Sylvia Burgos Toftness
Northwest Area Foundation
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