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Americans' Access to Basic Necessities Gradually Improving

Americans' Access to Basic Necessities Gradually Improving

by Melanie Standish

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Americans' access to basic life necessities such as food, housing, healthcare and/or medicine, and a safe, livable neighborhood is improving in 2012, with slight gains each month since falling to a record low in October 2011. The nation's Basic Access Index score was 82.0 in March, up from 81.2 in October 2011 and the highest level since June 2011. Access to basic necessities has ranged between 81% and 84% over the past four and a quarter years, but has not yet recovered to the peak scores recorded at the beginning of 2008.

Basic Access Index scores 2008-march 2012

These findings are based on more than 31,000 interviews with American adults conducted each month from January 2008 through March 2012 as a part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. The Basic Access Index includes 13 questions that measure Americans' access to basic necessities, ranging from food and shelter to clean water and healthcare to attitudes about their local area as a place to live.

Greatest Gains in City Optimism and Money for Food and Healthcare

Of the 13 items the Basic Access Index measures, Americans' optimism about the city or area where they live has improved the most since October. In March, 57.4% of Americans said their community was getting better as a place to live, up from 54.6% in October, and the highest since August 2008.

There have also been gains in self-reports of having access to food and healthcare and/or medicines since October. The percentage of Americans who said they had enough money to buy food at any time in the last 12 months rose to 81.2% in March, up from the three-year low of 79.8% in October. Similarly, the percentage of Americans who said they had enough money for healthcare and/or medicines at any time in the last 12 months rose to 80.9% in March, up from 79.7% in October.

Basica Access Index item scores 2011 vs 2012

Although changes in these metrics are small over time, slightly more Americans continue to report problems paying for food and healthcare than before the 2008 financial crisis. And Americans' ability to afford food and healthcare remains down from February 2011.

access to healthcare and food


The percentage of Americans reporting that they had access to basic necessities including money for food and healthcare and/or medicines rose slightly in March and is now at its highest point since October 2011. This adds to the growing evidence of an improving U.S. economy. Gallup also finds Americans' self-reported employment status, personal spending, workplace hiring trends, and life ratings were all better in March compared with February.

Despite these positive trends, Americans' access to basic life necessities still has not edged back up to pre-financial crisis levels. More Americans continue to struggle to pay for things like food, shelter, and healthcare than in early 2008.

About the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index tracks well-being in the U.S., U.K., and Germany and provides best-in-class solutions for a healthier world. To learn more, please visit

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone interviews conducted as part of the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index survey with a random sample of approximately 30,000 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia, selected using random-digit-dial sampling. The results for March reflect 31,283 interviews conducted March 1-31, 2012.

For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±0.6 percentage points.

Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample includes a minimum quota of 400 cell phone respondents and 600 landline respondents per 1,000 national adults, with additional minimum quotas among landline respondents by region. Landline telephone numbers are chosen at random among listed telephone numbers. Cell phone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.

Samples are weighted by gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, adults in the household, and phone status (cell phone only/landline only/both, cell phone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2010 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older non-institutionalized population living in U.S. telephone households. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting and sample design.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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