Who are the Working Poor?

You may have heard the term “working poor” before, but who are they?

working poorThe working poor are people who work, but live below the poverty line. They are not making  financial progress, despite their willingness to work. On the surface they look like most working individuals: they have a home, possibly own a car, and wear descent attire; however, below the surface they are struggling to afford the basics (e.g., a home, food, clothes, etc.).

In 2013, 10.5 million Americans were classified as working poor. They mostly work in low earning (minimum wage) manual labor jobs such as: food preparation/serving workers; retail; housekeeping/custodian; cashier;  dishwasher; home health care aids; daycare worker, and farm workers. And despite the fact, white collar jobs on average earn decent wages, some people in these positions (e.g., clerical/office automation, sales, teacher assistant, tellers, etc.) can still live below the poverty line.

Six Facts:

Women are more likely to be working poor than men.

They lack higher education.

Their households tend to be single-income and may be single parent.

Minorities/immigrants are more likely to be working poor.

The working poor are less likely to have health insurance.

People who are considered working poor tend to work minimum wage, part time, or seasonal jobs.

A Few Dangers:

The working poor live paycheck to paycheck and are at risk to financial emergencies. Approximately 45% of the working poor stated that a possible emergency (their car breaking down or someone getting sick and going to the emergency room) could bankrupt them, putting their families in jeopardy. Bankruptcies, eviction, foreclosure, and repossession are often commonplace.

Food insecurity for children is also a risk. Some children may need the assistance of programs to feed them, if there family qualifies, and often are in danger of going hungry. Improper meals can affect mental development in school-age children. A proper meal is vital to learning and physical health.

People living under the poverty line are more susceptible to health issues. Their employment usually do not have paid leave so they are unable to stay home and recover from illness without the fear of losing pay. They also do not have quality health insurance and if a plan is available, they may not be able to afford the premiums. Prescriptions, doctor offices’ copays, and coinsurance also may be too expensive.

Check out the below video hear a few courageous stories about the working poor. Let us hear what you think in the comments below:


Video credit: Public Policy Productions | Youtube

Video credit: Brave New Films | Youtube

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. A Profile of the Working Poor, 2013, BLS Report 1055. www.bls.gov. July 2015. (PDF) Accessed 09/26/2015.


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