The Lookout

More Americans than Chinese can’t put food on the table

Zachary Roth
The Lookout

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The number of Americans who lack access to basic necessities like food and health care is now higher than it was at the peak of the Great Recession, a survey released Thursday found. And in a finding that could worsen fears of U.S. decline, the share of Americans struggling to put food on the table is now three times as large as the share of the Chinese population in the same position.

The United States' Basic Index Score, a Gallup measure of access to necessities, fell to 81.4 in September--even lower than the 81.5 mark it reached in February and March, 2009. The recession officially ended in June of that year, but the halting recovery hasn't given a sustained boost to the number of Americans able to provide for themselves. The government reported last month that a record number of Americans is living in poverty.

Between September 2008 and last month, the share of Americans with access to a personal doctor plummeted from 82.5 percent to 78.3 percent. The share with health insurance fell from 85.9 percent to 82.3 percent. And the share saying they had enough money to buy food for themselves and their family dropped from 81.1 percent to 80.1 percent. Gallup's surveys are based on phone and in-person interviews.

Meanwhile, Gallup found that just 6 percent of Chinese said there were times in the past 12 months when they lacked enough money for food for themselves or their family, compared to 19 percent of Americans. Just three years ago, those results were almost reversed: 16 percent of Chinese couldn't put food on the table at times, compared to 9 percent of Americans.

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