About Half Of Americans Say They're Living Paycheck-To-Paycheck

Federal workers are missing their second paycheck. For many, that's financially destabilizing.

About 800,000 federal employees nationwide just missed their second paycheck due to the partial government shutdown.

For many, that will worsen an already financially precarious situation. FBI employees and Coast Guard members are relying on makeshift food pantries. Churches are handing out grocery gift cards to the furloughed. Some federal workers with young children are struggling to afford diapers.

“It’s a definite slap in the face,” Wade Hinkley, who served two decades in the Coast Guard, told HuffPost at a food pantry last week. “If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, and you don’t get that paycheck, it’s a sting. If you don’t get that paycheck, you have to find a way to provide for your family.” 

Much of the public, a new HuffPost/YouGov survey suggests, would also struggle in similar circumstances. A 52 percent majority say they consider themselves to be living paycheck-to-paycheck. Among those living in households making under $50,000 annually, that number rises to 69 percent. 

Similarly, in a Fox News poll released Wednesday, 54 percent of voters said they could miss ― at most ― two paychecks before they’d be unable to pay their bills.

According to a survey taken two years ago, about a quarter of the public would find it very difficult, if not impossible, to cover an emergency $400 expense. A recent Federal Reserve survey, which asked a similar question, found that about 40 percent of Americans wouldn’t have the cash on hand to do so.

“We’re not just talking about poor families,” Elise Gould, a senior economist with the Economic Policy Institute, told NPR. “These are middle class families that could be destabilized by not having that paycheck.” 

HuffPost readers: Are you affected by the government shutdown? Email us about it. If you’re willing to be interviewed, please provide a phone number.

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Jan. 22-23 among U.S. adults, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the adult U.S. population.

HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some, but not all, potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate. Click here for a more detailed explanation of the model-based margin of error.