Economic Find: The Working Poor

Being employed doesn’t necessarily mean you can cover your expenses. Many people are, in fact, working poor; in other words, they have jobs but still live below the official poverty line.

  • In 2009, the number of working poor was 10.4 million people – around 24% of all poor people
  • Black and Hispanic workers were about twice as likely as to experience poverty as those of White or Asian descent
  • Higher levels of education greatly decreases the likelihood of falling under the poverty line: about 2.1% of the working poor had a college degree compared to the 20.3% with less than a high school diploma
  • In 2009, around 86% of the working poor usually working full-time experience one or more of the three major labor market problems: low income, periods of unemployment, and involuntary part-time employment
  • Women providing for their families were more likely to be among the working poor compared to men in the same position

As the chart shows, the economic downturn has pulled many more under the poverty line.
Based on the 2006 Field Guide to the U.S. Economy. “The Working Poor.” 2.2: 22.

Updated and Revised by CPE Intern Slavena Molle

October 2011