Long-term trends in the federal income poverty measure are well documented and researched, but long-term trends in material hardship, as an alternative measure of economic well-being, are much less well known. In part, this is because data limitations have precluded the study of material hardship at multiple data points over time. Using data from the 2008 Survey of Income and Program Participation and repeat observations approximately one year apart, this paper uses probit models to analyze separately four domains of material hardship (i.e., food insecurity, housing hardship, medical hardship and essential expense hardship) in order to identify demographic characteristics that are associated with whether hardships occur and if they are one-time or repeated. The key findings are: 1) across all four domains, experiences of material hardship are evenly split between one-time and repeated, 2) across all four domains, exits from hardship are matched by entrances into hardship, and 3) some demographic factors, such as disability status, are strong and consistent predictors of material hardship across domains and recurrence, while other demographic factors, such as living in a metropolitan area or not, affect domains and recurrence of hardship differently. This analysis not only improves our understanding of how material hardship operates in households, but also demonstrates how material hardship can be a more nuanced and robust measure of economic well-being. Together with future research, these findings can help policymakers create more targeted and effective interventions that help all Americans make ends meet.
- Economic well-being
- Material hardship
- Social positioning
- Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP)
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science