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Bare necessities: Poll shows access to food, jobs, housing improving

Published: Tuesday, April 24 2012 5:10 p.m. MDT

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Americans are still struggling to get on their feet after the Great Recession, but things are looking up.

Earlier this month, a Gallup poll found Americans reported their well-being is at a 19-month high. Now a new Gallup poll shows access to "basic life necessities" is gradually improving.

The percentage of Americans who reported having access to basic life necessities such as food, housing and healthcare has steadily risen since the beginning of 2012, Gallup reported Tuesday.

The Basic Access Index, a component of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, looks at factors such as "food, housing, healthcare and/or medicine, and a safe, livable neighborhood" and assigns a score.

The score peaked at 84.1 percent in 2008 and plunged to 81.2 percent in October of 2011. It slowly climbed back up to the most current data from March 2012 with a score of 82 percent. All of this means that between about 16 percent and 19 percent of Americans have not had access to basic life necessities at some point over the last four years.

More Americans are finding work, too, and fewer are settling for part-time jobs. Unemployment fell from 9.1 percent in February to 8.4 percent in March, Gallup reported. Underemployment, which includes both the unemployed and those who are working part-time while looking for full-time work, dropped from 19 percent in February to 18 percent in March.

"There have also been gains in self-reports of having access to food and healthcare and/or medicines since October," Gallup reported. "The percentage of Americans who said they had enough money to buy food at any time in the last 12 months rose to 81.2 percent in March, up from the three-year low of 79.8 percent in October. Similarly, the percentage of Americans who said they had enough money for healthcare and/or medicines at any time in the last 12 months rose to 80.9 percent in March, up from 79.7 percent in October."

Americans are also becoming slightly more optimistic that their city or area where they reside is becoming a better place to live — up 2.8 points to 57.4 percent over October of 2011.

Gallup also recently looked at how marital status affected basic access. The figures were from December 2011 numbers — which was 81.9 percent (.1 points lower than the March 2012 percentage).

People who are married fared the best with 85.1 percent having access to basic life needs. Separated people did the worst with only 70.3 percent having access to basic life needs. Divorced people also did worse than married couples at 77.4 percent. The boost married people saw, however, did not translate to domestic partnerships, which were 11.1 points lower with 74 percent having access to basic life needs.

The Gallup article said the survey results are "evidence of an improving U.S. economy." But it also points out that access to necessities has not returned to pre-2008 financial crisis levels.

EMAIL: mdegroote@desnews.com

TWITTER: @degroote

FACEBOOK: facebook.com/madegroote

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