At a time when evictions and mortgage defaults have been likened to an oncoming tsunami across America, a big-data study of loan-to-value ratios in the wake of the 2007-08 recession carries a cautionary forecast for vexing economic weather ahead: The higher a worker’s outstanding mortgage relative to their home value, the worse their future income growth and job mobility.
Social Security’s cost of living adjustments (COLA) are designed to protect against the erosion of retiree purchasing power when prices go up, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI). “Now Social Security self-styled ‘reformers’ seek to lower COLA every year based on their claim that COLA overstates inflation,” says Merton C. Bernstein, LLB, a nationally recognized expert on Social Security. The proposed substitute for the current CPI formula, ‘Chained COLA,’ is based on the assumption that benefit recipients substitute lower-priced goods as prices go up. “This the assumption is unrealistic for those millions who only have access to convenience stores that typically offer fewer choice and higher prices,” says Bernstein, the Walter D. Coles Professor Emeritus at Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. “And, further, it is not reasonable to assume that most consumers can outwit the wiles of merchandising experts.”
What does it take for a family in the U.S. to have long-term economic security and not just “get by”? This question inspired the creation of the Basic Economic Security Tables Index (BEST), a joint effort of Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) and the Center for Social Development (CSD) at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis. The BEST is different from other ‘living wage’ indexes in that it aims to capture what is needed for household stability and development rather than focusing on subsistence. Findings suggest that families’ largest economic security challenges are rent and utilities, transportation, and childcare. The report calls the high cost of quality childcare “the greatest threat to many families’ security.” Childcare is so expensive that income needs for a one-parent family with two preschoolers are equivalent to those of a one-parent family with five teenagers.
Nearly half of all Americans between the ages of 60 and 90 will encounter at least one year of poverty or near poverty, says a recent study by Mark R. Rank, PhD, professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis. The findings are published in the current issue of Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services.