Working Class Americans Cannot Afford American Dream

Dollar bill

President Trump may have pledged to “Make America Great Again,” but he has a long way to go if he wants to persuade working-class Americans he can improve their lives. According to recently published data, the typical working-class family in the U.S. cannot afford to live in most major U.S. cities without drowning in debt.

Politicians have been trying to woo working-class Americans with promises of prosperity. To do this, they have promised to save jobs, create tax cuts, subsidize housing, and provide universal healthcare. Unfortunately, there is no agreed-upon definition of what exactly “working class” is, nor is there a standardized definition of so-called working class living conditions.

One study tried to do just that. It looked at the cost of living in any given U.S. city for various types of households and determined how comfortably they can live in the U.S.

For the report, it defined a working-class family as two adults with two children, a low-cost food plan, and living in a 1,500-square-foot home. The two adults have incomes comparable to those of a manicurist or home-appliance repairer.


Affordability was based on how much the typical working-class family would have left after covering fixed costs, which include the likes of food and housing.

Of the 10 largest cities in the U.S., only one place was affordable for a working-class family–meaning being able to enjoy a decent standard of living without taking on debt. That city is San Antonio, Texas.

Out of the top 50 largest cities, only 12 are considered affordable. Low-wage earners will have a better standard of living in smaller cities.

Location is of course most important. Newark, New Jersey; Chesapeake, Virginia; and Jacksonville, Florida are the only coastal locations where a working-class couple can support their family. If you’re a working-class American and want to live on the West Coast, forget it; there are no affordable cities there

Inexpensive locations tend to be far away from the coasts and can be found in the interior of the country. This is especially true in the southwest in states like Arizona and Texas. In turn, the worst places for working-class Americans are in New York and California.

In New York City, for example, a working-class family will need to earn an extra $91,000 a year–above and beyond the parent’s salaries–to just break even and enjoy a reasonable standard of living without having to take on debt.

The five worst cities are:

1. New York, NY (-$91,184)

2. San Francisco, CA (-$83,272)

3. Boston, MA (-$61,900)

4. Washington, DC (-$50,535)

5. Philadelphia, PA (-$37,850)

The top five cities with a net surplus after living expenses are:

1. Fort Worth, TX ($10,447)

2. Newark, NJ (($10,154)

3. Glendale, AZ ($10,120)

4. Gilbert, AZ ($9,760)

5. Mesa, AZ ($7,780)


The Working Class Can’t Afford the American Dream,”, September 6, 2017.