Gallup and Healthways began tracking for the Basic Access Index in January 2008, just before the economy went into a major recession. Respondents are questioned about 13 issues, including their ability to acquire food, housing and healthcare.
The overall index was 81.4 in August, essentially the same as the 81.2 recorded in October 2011, another low point.
The August survey, released Thursday, was the third since the recession began in which at least 20 percent of respondents said they had trouble buying food. The percentage of respondents who said they have a personal doctor or health insurance dropped sharply.
On the plus side, respondents were more likely to say their neighborhood is getting better as a place to live and to say that they have more access to fresh fruits and vegetables.
Gallup said its findings suggest the economic recovery has helped those at the upper end of the income scale and done little for those of modest means. Its analysts say wages have stagnated, with the average hourly wage in the private sector, adjusted for inflation, $8.77 in July compared to $8.85 in July 2009.
Gallup cut its sample size in half for the index at the end of 2012. For the August survey, 15,729 adults were surveyed during the entire month, with a margin of error of .8 percentage points.