TribLIVE

| Business


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Ranks of working poor are increasing

On the Grid

From the shale fields to the cooling towers, Trib Total Media covers the energy industry in Western Pennsylvania and beyond. For the latest news and views on gas, coal, electricity and more, check out On the Grid today.

Daily Photo Galleries

By The Washington Post
Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

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

Most-Read Business Headlines

  1. Stock market closes 2nd best week of 2014
  2. Beacons track shoppers’ smartphones amid retailers’ aisles
  3. 8 Western Pennsylvania hospitals penalized over infections
  4. Pennsylvania jobless rate drops to 5.1 percent
  5. First Niagara to cut 200 jobs; Pittsburgh impact unclear
  6. Alcoa buying jet engine components maker Tital to help expand aerospace unit
  7. Western Pa. utility workers OK contract with FirstEnergy
  8. Nonprofit hospitals in Western Pa. feel pain in finances despite Affordable Care Act
  9. Natural gas groups says increase in Pennsylvania taxes would bring dire results for economy
  10. EDMC accused in GI Bill scheme
  11. Harmar developer sells 15 hotels in Western Pa., West Virginia
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.