How inflation is impacting the lives of Americans
“I’ve had to take a serious look at my budget and find places to cut back,” says a listener named April. “I reduce visits to the chiropractor and other health appointments to once a month.”
April also stopped buying new clothes or even a cup of coffee when in town. She was accepted into a graduate program for the fall but is concerned about monthly loan payments.
Inflation is also causing many people to rethink their social activities. For Abraham Martinez in Austin, Texas, that means making a tradeoff about dating.
“The price increases have ballooned so much this year that even a few casual dates a month quickly eats into what’s left of my budget,” Martinez says, finding it hard to justify the financial investment required to go on dates with near-strangers.
In Pennsylvania, postal worker Vincent Kutlu and his wife are also feeling inflation’s bite. As costs rose, the couple decided Kutlu’s wife would return to the workforce instead of caring for their three children full-time. Now, their issue is finding affordable childcare.
“When my pay was enough to cover all our bills and put some in the savings, it was feasible,” Kutlu says. “But now that it’s not, [my wife is] going to be working full time and it’s going to cost us about $1,400 dollars a month to put just two of my kids to the child care facility.”
Inflation happens when there’s a mismatch between supply and demand, says Steven Brown, director of economic mobility policy at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. When there’s not enough of the things consumers want to buy, prices go up.
“The prices are rising to reflect that constraint,” Brown says.
Brown says it’s unfortunately typical for people to limit their doctor’s visits as April has. Sometimes patients receive medical bills after an appointment, and often it’s difficult to gauge the cost beforehand.
Inflation affects everyone, but not equally. Low-income families are impacted harder, Brown says, compared to higher-income families with more savings.
NPR recently released a poll detailing that Black, Latino and Native American families are experiencing inflation at much higher rates compared to white and Asian families.
The poll also reports that Black and Latino families often don’t have emergency savings to cover at least a month of expenses. And across all groups, the lack of affordable housing is a serious problem.
The Federal Reserve is trying to combat inflation, but Brown says the way they’re doing it will hurt low-income and Black and Brown families the hardest.
“[These families] would be most likely to lose their jobs if we were to enter into a recession,” Brown says. “We have to be really careful because probably families are struggling now. They would be even in worse shape if we’re in a situation where they were to lose their job.”
This article was originally published on WBUR.org.
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