Earning just $10.50 an hour at Walgreens drugstore in Chicago, De’Juan DJ Jackson, 23, and father of two, struggles to make ends meet, and his story, featured in Al Jazeera America’s “Hard Earned” documentary series, is not unique.
The median income has been more-or-less stagnant for more than 25 years. In 1988, the median U.S. household income was about $52,000 (adjusted). And that’s exactly where it remained in 2013 (the last year for which such figures are available), according to U.S. Census Bureau.
And as groceries, rent and other expenses continue to rise, many Americans are stuck trying to cover spiraling costs without a reciprocal increase in income, limiting opportunities for individuals and families to save up for a home, car or increase their standard of living.
And with times tight, any setback can push a family living paycheck-to-paycheck into poverty or homelessness. Jackson felt the blow especially hard when his home was burglarized, forcing him and his family to move in with his mother until he could save up enough to move into an apartment in a safer neighborhood.
“It was a huge blow when they came in our house and took all of our stuff,” Jackson said.