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10% of employed American households are working poor.


Stashed in: Facts, Economics!, Science!, Jobs, America!, Poverty

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One tenth of America's working households are poor:

The majority of the United States’ poor aren’t sitting on street corners. They’re employed at low-paying jobs, struggling to support themselves and a family. 

In the past, differing definitions of employment and poverty prevented researchers from agreeing on who and how many constitute the “working poor.”

But a new study by sociologists at BYU, Cornell and LSU provides a rigorous new estimate. Their work suggests about 10 percent of working households are poor. Additionally, households led by women, minorities or individuals with low education are more likely to be poor, but employed.

Science magazine says the data from this study is relevant to the upcoming presidential election, as candidates discuss ways to help the working poor move out of poverty. Understanding the size and characteristics of the group makes this goal more realistic.

BYU professor Scott Sanders says the findings dispel the notion that most impoverished Americans don’t work so they can rely on government handouts.

“The toxic idea is if we clump all those people together and treat them as the same people, then we don’t solve the real problem that the majority of people in poverty are working, trying to improve their lives, and we treat them all as deadbeats,” Sanders.

Working poor is the term used to describe individuals or families who hold jobs, but can’t break out of poverty. No standards currently exist for determining exactly who qualifies as working poor, so previous estimates vary widely in their results. This study compared 126 different measures of working poverty using 2013 population data. The authors found the most useful representation is determined when a head of household works at least half time and the household income is below 125 percent of the official poverty line.

“Having a unifying line saying we’re all measuring working poverty the same way is important before we can see how any changes or improvements are made,” Sanders said. “You can’t fix a problem until you know what is the problem.”

The study estimates that between 6.4 and 8 million heads of families classify as working poor, which is actually less than the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2011 estimate of 10.6 million.

So the actual article in Science is about how to measure the percentage of workers who are poor (probably around 10%, but plus or minus 8% either way!). I don't actually see any evidence about what percentage of the poor are working. The only thing they say about the latter question is "The poverty rate among the total population, which includes nonworkers, is much higher." I just don't think anything I've read here equates to "most of America's poor have jobs".

You schooled me!

The article atop this page is poorly written. The Science mag article is much better:

http://news.sciencemag.org/economics/2015/05/u-s-politicians-say-they-want-help-working-poor-how-many-are-there

And you are, of course, correct. I updated the title accordingly.

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