In Short Supply: Everyday Essentials

American Families Struggle to Secure Everyday Essentials

In Short Supply - Struggle to supply every day essentials.

The In Short Supply: American Families Struggle to Secure Everyday Essentials (PDF) research project found that one in three low-income American families struggles to afford basic non-food household goods—including products related to personal care, household care and baby care—and, as a result, make trade-offs with other living expenses and employ coping strategies to secure essential household goods.

Coping strategies and spending tradeoffs employed by low-income families struggling to afford basic necessities in the previous 12 months include:

  • 39% of families reported brushing their teeth without toothpaste.
  • 40% of families reported skipping or delaying paying rent.
  • 44% of families reported delaying changing a diaper.
  • 49% of families reported cutting back on medical expenses.
  • 64% of families reported skipping or delaying paying utility bills.
  • 74% of families reported skipping washing dishes or doing laundry.

In Short Supply also found that more than 4 out of 5 families unable to afford basic necessities also classify as food insecure, illustrating that struggling families have difficulty not only meeting their basic needs, but their need for food as well.

In this two-part research project, commissioned by Feeding America and supported by a research grant from Procter & Gamble, the Family Resiliency Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign first conducted qualitative interviews in fall 2011 with 25 food pantry clients about non-food essentials. These interviews were then used to inform a nationally representative, quantitative phone survey of 1,876 households with children, conducted by Abt SRBI from January through March 2012. Low-income families, those with an income at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), were oversampled to ensure adequate representation.

Download the Executive Summary [PDF]