Inflation is now causing hardship for the majority in the United States

Story Highlights

  • 56%, up from 49% in January, say rising prices are causing hardship
  • More middle- and upper-income Americans are struggling
  • Reducing expenses, canceling trips are the most common actions

WASHINGTON, DC — A majority of Americans, 56%, now say price increases are causing financial hardship for their household, up from 49% in January and 45% in November. The latest reading includes 12% who describe the difficulties as severe and 44% as moderate.

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The findings are based on an August 1-22 online survey that interviewed more than 1,500 members of Gallup’s probabilistic panel.

Although more Americans now than last fall say they are struggling, the percentage of those with severe difficulty has remained relatively stable at around 10%. Low-income Americans are more likely than others to experience severe hardship — 26% of those with annual household incomes below $48,000 say prices are causing severe hardship for their families. That compares to 12% of middle-income Americans and 4% of high-income Americans.

Low-income Americans are about as likely as last fall to say they are having severe or moderate difficulty — 74%, down from 70% in November.

Middle-income (63%) and high-income (40%) Americans remain significantly less likely than low-income Americans to say they are struggling. However, many more middle- and upper-income Americans are struggling today than last November. The increase was larger among middle-income Americans — up 17 percentage points — than among upper-income Americans — up 12 points.

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Reports of financial hardship also differ by partisanship. Republicans (67%) are much more likely than Democrats (44%) to say rising prices are hurting their families. The independents are between the party groups, at 56%.

These party differences are consistent with Republicans being more likely to cite inflation as the most important issue and to rate the economy more negatively than Democrats and Independents, likely due to the presence of a Democratic president in the White House.

Spending, travel and driving cuts are the most common responses to inflation

A new question in the survey asked people in difficulty to list some of the specific actions they take to respond to the effects of inflation.

The most common action, mentioned by 24% of those in difficulty, is to reduce expenses, including buying less in general or buying only essential items. Another 17% say they travel less or cancel vacations, while the same percentage say they drive less or try to use less gas.

Other common strategies for coping with higher prices are buying cheaper products or generic brands of products (12%), eating less at restaurants (10%), buying fewer grocery shopping or growing their own food (10%), staying home (8%), and reducing entertainment expenses (8%).

Seven percent say they have tried to increase their income by working more hours, finding a second job or looking for a new job. Three percent say they delay medical procedures or appointments, and another 3% delay home improvement or maintenance projects.

Two per cent each say they are downsizing or selling assets they own, using savings or using credit cards or loans. One percent use food banks or seek help.

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Adults at different income levels are about equally likely to report taking the most frequently mentioned actions. However, high-income people are more likely than low-income people to say they have reduced their trips and dining out, perhaps because they are more likely to engage in these activities under normal circumstances.

Conclusion

With high inflation that has persisted for more than a year, a majority of Americans now say they are struggling financially because of rising prices. Low-income Americans were primarily affected at first, but most middle-income Americans and a substantial minority of high-income Americans are now feeling the pressure of rising prices.

To cope with the difficulties that inflation causes them, Americans are largely making sacrifices by buying less, reducing their discretionary spending and reducing their recreational activities. Some have resorted to larger measures such as finding another job, going into debt, postponing medical care or asking for help.

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