The number of low-income families with parents who are employed but still struggle near poverty – also known as the “working poor” – increased to 10.4 million in 2011, according to the Working Poor Families Project (WPFP).
A Policy Brief for Winter 2012-2013 from the WPFP titled ‘LOW-INCOME WORKING FAMILIES: THE GROWING ECONOMIC GAP’ estimated nearly one third of all working families – 32 percent – may not have enough money to meet basic needs.
The brief from the WPFP, a national initiative to assist low-income families achieve economic security, estimates the total number of people in “working poor” families has already reached 47.5 million and could reach 50 million in the next few years.
Approximately 200,000 new “working poor” families emerged in 2011 based on analysis of the most recent U.S. Census Bureau data and now live near poverty, which is defined as earning less than 200 percent of the official poverty rate of $22,811 for a family of four.
While the unemployment rate in the U.S. has dipped under 8 percent from 10 percent three years ago, the new jobs acquired usually have lower wages, less security, and limited opportunities for advancement compared with middle-class jobs held before the “Great Recession.”
The WPFP also found that roughly 25 percent of low-income parents worked in one of the following eight jobs: cashiers, cooks, drivers, health aides, janitors, maids, retail clerks, and waiters and waitresses. Key findings of the policy brief include:
- The number of low-income working families in the United States increased to 10.4 million in 2011, up from 10.2 million in 2010.
- The total number of people in low-income working families in the U.S. is estimated to be 47.5 million.
- Approximately 23.5 million, or 37 percent, of U.S. children lived in low-income working families in 2011.
- Ten states – Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada, and South Carolina – had low-income working families increase by 5 percentage points or more between 2007 and 2011.
- The wealthiest 20 percent of working families took home nearly half (48 percent) of all income, while those working families in the bottom 20 percent received less than 5 percent.
This WPFP policy brief was based on new 2011 data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey that examines low-income working families in America and highlights the growing economic divide between working families.
For more information about the Working Poor Families Project (WPFP), visit www.workingpoorfamilies.org or call (301) 657-1480.