FACT CHECK: Is Half Of America Living Paycheck To Paycheck?

David Sivak | Fact Check Editor

Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan claimed Thursday during a press conference that “half this country is living paycheck to paycheck.”

Verdict: True

A number of recent statistics support Ryan’s claim.

Fact Check:

A recent GOBankingRates survey asked recipients “Are you currently living paycheck to paycheck?” Nearly half of those surveyed answered yes.

A whopping 78 percent of Americans answered yes when a CareerBuilder survey asked a similar question. It found that 40 percent of Americans “usually” or “always” live paycheck to paycheck, while an additional 38 percent “sometimes” do.

Survey responses often depend upon the way questions are worded. For example, a Federal Reserve survey found that a lower, but still sizeable 31 percent of Americans are “struggling to get by” or “just getting by” financially.

While each survey gives a different answer as to how many Americans are cash-strapped, a number of recent statistics support Ryan’s claim.

The Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) found that 48 percent of Americans have expenses equal to or greater than what they earn. And according to the Federal Reserve, 46 percent of adults would have trouble affording an emergency expense of $400 or more.

So many Americans have financial troubles, in part, because of income volatility. The CFSI survey found that almost 40 percent of Americans have incomes that fluctuate each month. This volatility causes financial stress for 86 percent of those surveyed.

Beyond earnings, Americans tend to struggle with budgeting, saving money and managing debt. According to the CareerBuilder survey, only 32 percent of Americans stick to a specific budget and 56 percent save $100 a month or less. Between mortgages, credit cards, auto loans, student loans and other obligations, Americans have racked up a cumulative $12.8 trillion in household debt.

Regardless of the reasons why, Ryan’s claim is supported by several recent statistics.

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David Sivak

Fact Check Editor


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