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Report: Washington's Low-Income Residents Are Disproportionately Burdened By Debt

Low-income residents Washington state are disproportionately burdened by debt, according to a new report by the grassroots advocacy group Alliance for a Just Society. 

One reason: increasing student loan debt. The report says the average student loan debt at graduation in Washington jumped 23 percent from 2008 to 2012 to a total of more than $23,000. And the average credit card debt in the state is more than $5,000.

But Ben Henry, one of the authors of the report, says low-income people who earn less than $15 an hour are going into debt more often because they can’t get by.

"We hear all kinds of stories of families that have to turn to credit cards to be able to pay their basic bills, and it’s not like they’re going out and spending all this money on frivolous things. This is basic needs stuff," Henry said.

Washington state has the highest minimum wage in the country at $9.32 an hour, but the Alliance for a Just Society says that’s not enough for people to get by on. The group says in King County, a living wage for a single adult with a toddler and a school-age kid would be about $34 an hour. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.