How rising inflation drives low-income Americans’ preferences: NPR


March 13 A shopkeeper walks through a grocery store in Washington, DC. Rising inflation poses a particular challenge to working-class households, affecting the prices of basic necessities such as groceries.

Stephanie Reynolds / AFP via Getty Images


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March 13 A shopkeeper walks through a grocery store in Washington, DC. Rising inflation poses a particular challenge to working-class households, affecting the prices of basic necessities such as groceries.

Stephanie Reynolds / AFP via Getty Images

From rising rents to high heating bills, rising inflation affects everyone, but it also causes a certain hardship for those who do not have a little extra money.

On Tuesday, the labor sector is expected to report that consumer prices in March were 8% higher than a year earlier, a sharp jump from the 7.9% seen in the previous month. It will keep inflation at its highest level since 1982.

While no one wants to pay more for haircuts or hamburgers, high inflation hurts low-income families as much is spent on necessities like groceries and petrol, which has seen huge price hikes.

These families have little fat in their family budget, so when inflation reduces their limited spending power, something has to be given.

Take Laura Kembe, a widow in Muldro, Oklahoma, who says she made $ 306 last month, which is more than double the $ 125 she paid a year ago.

“I live in a two bedroom mobile home,” he says. “I do not understand what’s going on. Every month it increases, taking up a third of my income.”

With not even the slightest pleasure like a McDonald’s meal being priced, Kemp feels like he’s losing his place.

“By the 10th of the month, I have $ 200 left,” he says. “$ 200 a month now goes in my gas tank.”

“I’m not coming to the end of the month anymore,” he adds. “Even getting a Big Mac now – a Big Mac meal costs $ 8 – I can not afford it.”

When the weather warms up, Kemp plans to plant a vegetable garden in hopes of paying his food bills. He picks seeds for tomatoes, zucchini, peppers and eggplant, and he sees some of the land his brother owns – where his mobile home is.


Feb. Community volunteers cut and prepare fruit at the Houston Food Bank on the 8th.

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Feb. Community volunteers cut and prepare fruit at the Houston Food Bank on the 8th.

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Prices are rising everywhere, from groceries to rent

Charlene Rye, who retired after 28 years in the poultry industry – in most of the poultry processing plants of the time – had to make tough choices following the sharp rise in chicken prices last year, as did everything in the grocery store.

“You have to be a little more careful with the ingredients you cook and the ingredients you buy,” he says.

Rye gets help from a grocery store in Sallisa, Oklahoma, which has been buzzing with rising prices.

“They open at 10 and if you’re there at 9, there are already people in line,” he says.

For Terry Dean, the cost of housing really bites. She and her teenage son are temporarily staying at a hotel in Sallisa. He relies on about $ 1,600 a month in disability payments, which currently make an apartment inaccessible.

“They want the first month and the deposit, they don’t realize this family will bring it,” Dean said.

Low-income families typically spend 45% of their income on housing, compared to 18% for high-income families.


On April 11, gasoline prices at several gas stations in Washington, DC were as low as $ 4 a gallon.

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On April 11, gasoline prices at several gas stations in Washington, DC were as low as $ 4 a gallon.

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Gas prices are particularly severely affected

The imbalance in food and transportation is even greater – 9% of high-income households’ budgets but 26% of low-income households.

After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, petrol prices soared to $ 4.33 a gallon in March – an all-time high that did not fix inflation.

Increased gas prices will affect family relationships. As energy prices soared, Chicago-based Patricia Bridgemon was forced to cut back on her elderly mother, Hammond, Ind., 25 minutes.

“It’s so scary with gas,” he says. “I usually go to see her three days a week. Now, it’s one less because of the gas.”

Kemp, a widow with a high heating bill, has reduced driving to Ford Smith, Ark., About 35 minutes from her home in eastern Oklahoma.

“I love going to art museums and thrift stores and shopping and going out,” he said. “But I can not go on anymore.”

Meanwhile, Rye, a retired poultry worker, has to weigh the cost of driving to a large supermarket far away from where he can shop near home, where prices can be high, even at good times.


Federal Reserve Governor Lyle Brinard, following a proposal by President Fidel to serve as Vice President of the Central Bank during the January 13 candidacy hearing in Washington, D.C.

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Federal Reserve Governor Lyle Brinard, following a proposal by President Fidel to serve as Vice President of the Central Bank during the January 13 candidacy hearing in Washington, D.C.

Drew Anchor / Getty Images

The Federal Reserve plans to fight inflation

Federal Reserve officials are well aware of the impact inflation is having, especially on low-income families, Federal Governor Lale Brinard said in a speech last week.

“While all Americans face higher prices, the burden is heavier on families with fewer resources,” Brinard said. “That is why our most important task is to reduce inflation while at the same time maintaining an all-inclusive recovery.”

The central bank began raising interest rates last month to reduce consumer demand and keep prices in check.

The central bank started slowly, raising rates by a quarter of a percentage point. But with the half-point increase widely expected at the next Fed meeting in early May, markets expect the Fed to become more aggressive.

Although forecasters say March could reach a high water mark for inflation, consumer prices will continue to rise at an alarming rate throughout the year, at least continuing to put some pressure on families to buy.

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