Ranks of working poor are increasing
WASHINGTON — Nearly a third of the nation's working families earn salaries so low that they struggle to pay for their necessities, according to a new report.
The ranks of the working poor have grown even as the nation has created jobs for the past 27 months and is showing other signs of shaking off the worst effects of the recession.
“Although many people are returning to work, they are often taking jobs with lower wages and less job security, compared with the middle class jobs they held before the downturn,” said a report released by the Working Poor Families Project, a national initiative aimed at fostering state policies to help low-income working families.
With the nation's economy in recovery, the report said, more than 70 percent of low-income families and half of all poor families were working by 2011, the report said. The problem is they did not earn enough to cover their basic living expenses.
“We're not on a good trajectory,” said Brandon Roberts, who manages the Working Poor Families Project. “The overall number of low-income working families is increasing despite the recovery.”
Analyzing 2011 data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey, the report said that 32 percent of working families earned salaries that put them below double the poverty threshold, which was $45,622 for a family of four — up from 28 percent in 2007.
And 37 percent of the nation's children — 23.5 million — were part of working poor families in 2011, the report said, up from 33 percent in 2007.
Nearly three in five low-income working families were headed by at least one minority parent, even though minorities headed 42 percent of all working families.
The growth in the ranks of the working poor coincides with continued growth in income inequality. Many of the occupations experiencing the fastest job growth during the recovery pay poorly. Among them are retail jobs, food preparation, clerical work and customer assistance.
At the same time, researchers have found that many jobs that do not require much education but pay relatively well have lagged in the recovery. They include carpenters, painters, real estate brokers and insurance professionals.
Jobs typically filled by college graduates fared better than others during the downturn, helping to widen the gap between those at the top of the wage scale and those at the bottom.
Meanwhile, the best means for climbing the income ladder — improved education — is growing more uncertain and more expensive, the report said.
Also, the federal government is facing huge budget deficits, meaning that policies that would help bolster working poor families, such as a higher minimum wage, are unlikely to be implemented.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- If you get this letter from the IRS, it’s legitimate
- Increased credit card use reflects confidence, flat wages
- Home appraisal is below sales price — now what?
- Heinz merging with Kraft in mega-deal; headquarters to stay in Pittsburgh
- Corporate missteps hurt reputations, profits, sometimes in long run
- Komando: Boost cellphone signal when nixing landline
- Farmers fund research on gluten-free wheat
- France plane crash victim’s father calls for airlines to focus on pilot welfare
- Venting online about job protected
- Tourists rush to visit Cuba before American influence felt
- Falling demand for steel not likely to reverse any time soon