Giving Compass' Take:

• St. Louis city treasurer Tishaura O. Jones writes an essay about the impact that income volatility has on her community and what we can do about it.

• What can this example tell us about the economic health around the country? How can we make families more secure in their finances through anti-poverty initiatives?

• Here are 3 steps we can take to leverage data and technology to help low-income residents.

Many families in our community are struggling with a silent epidemic — income volatility.

I can have a steady schedule but if it’s slow, they’ll send us home. Or, sometimes, we’ll work overtime. It depends.


My husband got laid off five months ago. I don’t know what he’s doing, temping here and there. He had a good union job.

These are quotes from St. Louis community members who, like millions of their fellow Americans, experience month-to-month swings in income, making it hard to make ends meet, plan for the future, and save money.

According to an Urban Institute study, one in four American families are hit with unexpected disruption in income every year. For some, this volatility exists year-to-year, others see it as much as month-to-month or week-to-week.

These swings can cause family finances to spiral, especially when there are no savings to turn to. A survey conducted by the Federal Reserve found that 44 percent of adults are unable to cover a $400 emergency expense without selling something or borrowing. When faced with this kind of setback, households are forced to turn to unsustainable solutions like predatory loans that can leave them with more debt.

The issue of income volatility is not unique to St. Louis, but is exacerbated by other issues we face, including high poverty rates and stagnant wages.

Read the full article about income volatility in St. Louis Tishaura O. Jones at The Aspen Institute.