Severe Housing Cost Burden and Hardship in Working Families

Sharon Vandivere, Child Trends
Megan Gallagher, Child Trends
Elizabeth C. Hair, Child Trends
Richard Wertheimer

This study examines severe housing cost burden, material hardships, and their socioeconomic and demographic correlates among working families, using descriptive and multivariate analyzes of the 2002 National Survey of American Families. Working families are those in which earnings exceed the full-time minimum wage equivalent and are below 120 percent of local area median. Severe housing cost burden occurs when mortgage or rent payments exceed half of a family’s total income. Working families facing such a burden are more likely than others to endure material hardships, largely due to low incomes. We find evidence that immigrant families may be particularly likely to use crowding to cope with severe housing cost burden. We discuss the policy implications of our findings, the tradeoffs that some families may make between housing quality and material hardships, and the implications for family and child well-being.

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Presented in Session 29: The Social and Demographic Effects of Housing