Any American family that spends more than 30 percent of its income on housing is considered “cost burdened” by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. Cost-of-living data show that such families pay so much for shelter they risk being unable to afford other essential expenses. By this standard, there is no longer any state in America where a family supported by a full-time minimum-wage worker can find a two-bedroom apartment at fair-market rents without becoming cost burdened.
A powerful and disturbing new book by Kathyrn J. Edin and H. Luke Shaefer, “$2.00 a Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America,’’ profiles eight families for whom the designation “cost burdened” is a dramatic understatement. The people whose stories they relate have lived for extended periods on $2 or less each day per family member, an income level that cannot provide adequate housing, food, clothing, or much of anything.