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Report: Middle Class Families Have $100 Left Each Month

GRAPHIC: A report from the Center for Responsible Lending finds that the average, middle-class Arkansas family has $100 "extra" each month.
GRAPHIC: A report from the Center for Responsible Lending finds that the average, middle-class Arkansas family has $100 "extra" each month.
December 26, 2012

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - A sneak peek at the average middle-class household budget in Arkansas shows about $100 left each month after covering regular expenses - at least, before the Christmas bills are due.

The research from the Center for Responsible Lending looked at monthly expenses and incomes. Senior researcher Sonia Garrison says wages have been declining over the past decade, while the cost of just about everything has been going up. And, $100 doesn't leave much wiggle room in a family budget.

"It's not nearly enough to cover a medical or other emergency, to save for a down payment for a home or auto purchase, or to contribute adequately to college or retirement savings."

The report also found that the types of debts carried by average families have changed over the past decade, with student loans becoming more common - and larger. Garrison says they're calling for more scrutiny of student loans, and auto loans as well.

There's good news in the report, too, with recent regulations on mortgages and credit cards cited as protecting consumers.

While the housing market is recovering, the study found that foreclosures are still high, and far more likely to affect blacks and Latinos than whites.

Garrison says they also quantified the way in which foreclosures create a "ripple effect."

"Unfortunately, foreclosure costs extend beyond the individual families losing their homes. Foreclosures decrease the values of surrounding properties, causing losses of wealth for neighboring families."

That loss hit close to 500,000 Arkansas homes, for a total of more than $800 million since 2007, just because they are near foreclosed properties.

The full report, "The State of Lending in America and Its Impact on U.S. Households," is at ResponsibleLending.org.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - AR