Gallup: Fewer Americans Have Access to Basic Necessities

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Remember when your parents told you to finish the food on your plate because “people in China were starving?” Well, the Chinese might well be saying that about America these days.

According to new polls by Gallup, fewer people in the U.S. say they have access to fundamental needs like healthcare, food and shelter. And the kicker? People in China are struggling less than Americans to put food on the table.

Gallup’s Basic Access Index shows that 18% of Americans can’t afford basic necessities, fewer people in the U.S. have a personal doctor and health insurance, and more Americans say that they’re having trouble paying for food and shelter. The index sits at 81.4, lower than it was at the height of the recession.

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The most striking difference between now and September 2008, before the recession took hold, is the affect the economic downturn has had on our medical care. In 2008, 82.5% of respondents said they had a personal doctor. Today, only 78.3% have one. The percentage of Americans who have health insurance dropped by almost 4% to 82.3%, and those able to visit a dentist in the past 12 months also dipped.

On the bright side, more Americans said it was easy for them to get medicine, clean drinking water and exercise.

While the index is only 0.1 percentage point lower than in February and March of 2009, it’s still a very sobering picture of where Americans stand financially. The index began rising a bit early last year and also around February this year, but since then has trended steadily downward.

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And as the U.S. struggles, China is gaining. According to Gallup surveys, only 6% of Chinese say there have been times in the last 12 months when they didn’t have enough money to buy food, down from 16% in 2008. In the U.S., on the other hand, 9% of Americans said there were times they couldn’t afford food in 2008. This year? It’s at 19%.