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Falling Behind

There was a time when all you had to do was get a job. In the 1950s and '60s, most full-time jobs paid enough to support a family and even buy a house. But times have changed. Today, you can work 40 hours a week and still not be able to buy health insurance, let alone a house of your own. Many people in Minnesota are working, but poor. They hold down not just one, but two jobs, and barely get by.

A Real Life Budget
Document It's a challenge for many Minnesotans to make ends meet on an income of $20,000 or less. Here's the monthly budget for one single mother living in Mankato.

Real Life Debt
Document Many college students fall into debt quickly, and then have a difficult time getting out. MPR reporter Cara Hetland knows this situation first-hand. Here's her story.

Talk About This Story
Document Do you live paycheck to paycheck? Can you keep up with your bills on one 40 hour a week job? What are the greatest risks to a family that is just getting by? Discuss these and other issues that confront the working poor.

Resources and Links
DocumentMinnesota Community Action Agencies
County by county income and expense data
DocumentMinnesota Workforce Center
Facts on Minnesota's labor force
DocumentThe McKnight Foundation
Background information on issues facing working poor
DocumentMinnesota Department of Human Services
Information on services for the poor

Broadcast editor: Kate Smith
Online editor: Melanie Sommer
Researcher: Betsy Cole
Art director: Ben Tesch
Interactive producer: Julia Schrenkler
Web production supervisor: Michael Wells
Web manager: John Pearson

Rhonna and Madison A day with Rhonna A day with Rhonna
Rhonna Kalstad of Bovey and her two kids are up at 7 every morning, and don't get to bed until after midnight. Spending a day with Rhonna illustrates how exhausting it can be to live on a limited income.
Deluged with debt The high cost of housing The high cost of housing
Thousands of Minnesota families struggle each month to pay for the roof over their heads. Mortgage payments or rent eat up so much of their income there's not enough left for other necessities. Hundreds of millions of dollars are pumped into affordable housing programs every year, but the need continues to grow.
Splomskowski family Health insurance is a luxury for many Health insurance is a luxury for many
Good health is important to everyone, especially if you're struggling to make ends meet and have no health insurance. Health plan officials are predicting double-digit increases in health care premiums in Minnesota, which makes it even more difficult for some families to buy coverage.
Daycare kids Struggling to find affordable daycare Struggling to find affordable daycare
Each day, two-thirds of school age children in Minnesota are cared for by someone other than their parents. For many families, that's a huge expense. While lower income families can receive financial assistance for child care, many working families don't qualify for help. Child care costs are pushing many working families to the financial edge.
Kari Jones Working to drive Working to drive
Getting to work is the first step in holding a job. For people without a vehicle, that trip can be as difficult as the job itself. The role of the car is important in the lives of the working poor.
Nate Helling Starting out without falling behind Starting out without falling behind
There were more bankruptcies filed in 2002 than ever before, when 1.5 million people filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Many blame poor spending habits and high credit card debt, which can begin in college. The choices young people make about money can stay with them for years.
Michelle Romero Walk a mile in my shoes Walk a mile in my shoes
One of the obstacles people with low incomes often face is isolation. There's a deep divide between the haves and the have-nots. Last month, people in Duluth tried to bridge that gap. Ten low-income families were paired with school board members, city councilors -- people who make policies that affect families. They walked a mile in each others' shoes.
Blanding Foundation
Made possible by a grant from the Blandin Foundation

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