Working poor

The working poor are working people whose incomes fall below a given poverty line due to lack of work hours and/or low wages. Largely because they are earning such low wages, the working poor face numerous obstacles that make it difficult for many of them to find and keep a job, save up money, and maintain a sense of self-worth.[1]

The official working poverty rate in the US has remained relatively static over the past four decades, but many social scientists argue that the official rate is set too low, and that the proportion of workers facing significant financial hardship has instead increased over the years. Changes in the economy, especially the shift from a manufacturing-based to a service-based economy, have resulted in the polarization of the labor market. This means that there are more jobs at the top and the bottom of the income spectrum, but fewer jobs in the middle.[2]

There are a wide range of anti-poverty policies that have been shown to improve the situation of the working poor. Research suggests that increasing welfare state generosity is the most effective way to reduce poverty and working poverty.[3][4]

Conceptualizing working poverty

In the United States, the issue of working poverty was initially brought to the public's attention during the Progressive Era (1890s–1920s). Progressive Era thinkers like Robert Hunter, Jane Addams, and W.E.B. Du Bois saw society's unequal opportunity structure as the root cause of poverty and working poverty, but they also saw a link between moral factors and poverty. In his study of Philadelphia's African American neighborhoods, W.E.B. Du Bois draws a distinction between "hardworking" poor people who fail to escape poverty due to racial discrimination and those who are poor due to moral deficiencies such as laziness or lack of perseverance.[5]

After the Great Depression, the New Deal, and World War II, the United States experienced an era of prosperity during which most workers experienced significant gains in wages and working conditions. During this period (1930s–1950s), scholars shifted their attention away from poverty and working poverty. However, in the late 1950s and early 1960s American scholars and policymakers began to revisit the problem. Influential books like John Kenneth Galbraith's The Affluent Society (1958)[6] and Michael Harrington's The Other America (1962)[7] reinvigorated the discussions on poverty and working poverty in the United States.

Since the start of the War on Poverty in the 1960s, scholars and policymakers on both ends of the political spectrum have paid an increasing amount of attention to working poverty. One of the key ongoing debates concerns the distinction between the working and the nonworking (unemployed) poor. Conservative scholars tend to see nonworking poverty as a more urgent problem than working poverty because they believe that non-work is a moral hazard that leads to welfare dependency and laziness, whereas work, even poorly paid work, is morally beneficial. In order to solve the problem of nonworking poverty, some conservative scholars argue that the government must stop "coddling" the poor with welfare benefits like AFDC/TANF.[8]

On the other hand, liberal scholars and policymakers often argue that most working and nonworking poor people are quite similar. Studies comparing single mothers on and off welfare show that receiving welfare payments does not degrade a person's desire to find a job and get off of welfare.[9] The main difference between the working and the nonworking poor, they argue, is that the nonworking poor have a more difficult time overcoming basic barriers to entry into the labor market, such as arranging for affordable childcare, finding housing near potential jobs, or arranging for transportation to and from work. In order to help the nonworking poor gain entry into the labor market, liberal scholars and policymakers argue that the government should provide more housing assistance, childcare, and other kinds of aid to poor families.[10]

Discussions about the alleviation of working poverty are also politically charged. Conservative scholars and policymakers often attribute the prevalence of inequality and working poverty to overregulation and overtaxation, which they claim constricts job growth. In order to lower the rate of working poverty, conservatives advocate reducing welfare benefits and enacting less stringent labor laws.[8][11] On the other hand, many liberals argue that working poverty can only be solved through increased, not decreased, government intervention. This government intervention could include workplace reforms (such as higher minimum wages, living wage laws, job training programs, etc.) and an increase in government transfers (such as housing, food, childcare, and healthcare subsidies).[1][3][4][9]

Measuring working poverty


According to the US Department of Labor, the working poor "are persons who spent at least 27 weeks [in the past year] in the labor force (that is, working or looking for work), but whose incomes fell below the official poverty level."[12] In other words, if someone spent more than half of the past year in the labor force without earning more than the official poverty threshold, the US Department of Labor would classify them as "working poor." (Note: The official poverty threshold, which is set by the US Census Bureau, varies depending on the size of a family and the age of the family members.) The US Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates working poverty rates for all working individuals, all families with at least one worker, and all "unrelated individuals." The individual-level working poverty rate calculates the percentage of all workers whose incomes fall below the poverty threshold. In 2009, the individual-level working poverty rate in the US was 7%, compared to 4.7% in 2000. The family-level working poverty rate only includes families of two or more people who are related by birth, marriage, or adoption. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' definition of family-level working poverty, a family is working poor if the combined cash income of the family falls below the poverty threshold for a family of their size. In 2009, the family-level working poverty rate in the US was 7.9%, compared to 5.6% in 2000. Finally, the unrelated individual working poverty rate measures working poverty among those who do not currently live with any family members. In 2009, 11.7% of employed unrelated individuals were poor, compared to 7.6% in 2000.[12][13]


In Europe and other non-US, high-income countries, poverty and working poverty are defined in relative terms. A relative measure of poverty is based on a country's income distribution rather than an absolute amount of money. Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, classifies a household as poor if its income is less than 60 percent of the country's median household income. According to Eurostat, a relative measure of poverty is appropriate because "minimal acceptable standards usually differ between societies according to their general level of prosperity: someone regarded as poor in a rich developed country might be regarded as rich in a poor developing country."[14]

When conducting cross-national research on working poverty, scholars tend to use a relative measure of poverty. In these studies, to be classified as "working poor," a household must satisfy the following two conditions: 1) at least one member of the household must be "working" (which can be defined in various ways), and 2) the total household income must be less than 60% (or 50%, or 40%) of the median income for that country.[3][4] Brady, Fullerton, and Cross's 2010 cross-national study on working poverty in high-income countries defines a household as working poor if 1) it has at least one employed person and 2) the total household income falls below 50% of the median income for that country. According to this relative definition, the US's working poverty rate was 11% in the year 2000, nearly double the rate produced by the US government's absolute definition. For the same year, Canada's working poverty rate was 7.8%, the UK's was 4%, and Germany's was 3.8%.[4]

Prevalence and trends

Poverty Rates by Sex and Work Status for Americans 65+ in 2006
Poverty rates by gender and work for Americans aged 65 and over

Poverty is often associated with joblessness, but a large proportion of poor people are actually working or looking for work. In 2009, according to the US Census Bureau's official definition of poverty, 8.8 million US families were below the poverty line (11.1% of all families). Of these families, 5.19 million, or 58.9%, had at least one person who was classified as working. In the same year, there were 11.7 million unrelated individuals (people who do not live with family members) whose incomes fell below the official poverty line (22% of all unrelated individuals). 3.9 million of these poor individuals, or 33%, were part of the working poor.[12][15] The cost of raising a child from birth to age 18 for a middle-income, two-parent family averaged $226,920 last year (not including college), according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That's up nearly 40% -- or more than $60,000—from 10 years ago. Just one year of spending on a child can cost up to $13,830 in 2010, compared to $9,860 a decade ago.

Using the US Census Bureau's definition of poverty, the working poverty rate seems to have remained relatively stable since 1978.[12] However, many scholars have argued that the official poverty threshold is too low, and that real wages and working conditions have actually declined for many workers over the past three or four decades. Social scientists like Arne Kalleberg have found that the decline in US manufacturing and the subsequent polarization of the labor market has led to an overall worsening of wages, job stability, and working conditions for people with lower skill levels and less formal education. From the mid-1940s to the mid-1970s, manufacturing jobs offered many low-skilled and medium-skilled workers stable, well-paying jobs. Due to global competition, technological advances, and other factors, US manufacturing jobs have been disappearing for decades. (From 1970 to 2008, the percentage of the labor force employed in the manufacturing sector shrank from 23.4% to 9.1%.[16][17]) During this period of decline, job growth became polarized on either end of the labor market. That is, the jobs that replaced medium-pay, low- to medium-skill manufacturing jobs were high-paying, high-skill jobs and low-paying, low-skill jobs. Therefore, many low- to medium-skilled workers who would have been able to work in the manufacturing sector in 1970 must now take low-paying, precarious jobs in the service sector.[2]

US compared to Europe

Other high-income countries have also experienced declining manufacturing sectors over the past four decades, but most of them have not experienced as much labor market polarization as the United States. Labor market polarization has been the most severe in liberal market economies like the US, Britain, and Australia. Countries like Denmark and France have been subject to the same economic pressures, but due to their more "inclusive" (or "egalitarian") labor market institutions, such as centralized and solidaristic collective bargaining and strong minimum wage laws, they have experienced less polarization.[2]

Cross-national studies have found that European countries' working poverty rates are much lower than the US's. Most of this difference can be explained by the fact that European countries' welfare states are more generous than the US's.[3][4] The relationship between generous welfare states and low rates of working poverty is elaborated upon in the "Risk Factors" and "Anti-Poverty Policies" sections.

The following graph uses data from Brady, Fullerton, and Cross (2010) to show the working poverty rates for a small sample of countries. Brady, Fullerton, and Cross (2010) accessed this data through the Luxembourg Income Study. This graph measures household, rather than person-level, poverty rates. A household is coded as "poor" if its income is less than 50% of its country's median income. This is a relative, rather than absolute, measure of poverty. A household is classified as "working" if at least one member of the household was employed at the time of the survey. The most important insight contained in this graph is that the US has strikingly higher working poverty rates than European countries.

Pov crossnatl.jpeg

Pov crossnatl.jpeg

Risk factors

There are five major categories of risk factors that increase a person's likelihood of experiencing working poverty: sectoral factors, demographic factors, economic factors, labor market institutions, and welfare generosity. Working poverty is a phenomenon that affects a very wide range of people, but there are some employment sectors, demographic groups, political factors, and economic factors that are correlated with higher rates of working poverty than others. Sectoral and demographic factors help explain why certain people within a given country are more likely than others to be working poor. Political and economic factors can explain why different countries have different working poverty rates.

Sectoral tendencies
Working poverty is not distributed equally among employment sectors. The service sector has the highest rate of working poverty. In fact, 13.3% of US service sector workers found themselves below the poverty line in 2009.[12] Examples of low-wage service sector workers include fast-food workers, home health aids, waiters/waitresses, and retail workers.

Although the service sector has the highest rate of working poverty, a significant portion of the working poor are blue-collar workers in the manufacturing, agriculture, and construction industries. Most manufacturing jobs used to offer generous wages and benefits, but manufacturing job quality has declined over the years. Nowadays, many US manufacturing jobs are located in right-to-work states, where it is nearly impossible for workers to form a union. This means that manufacturing employers are able to pay lower wages and offer fewer benefits than they used to.

Demographic factors
In her book, No Shame in My Game, Katherine Newman finds that "[t]he nation's young, its single parents, the poorly educated, and minorities are more likely than other workers to be poor" (p. 42).[18] These factors, in addition to being part of a large household, being part of a single-earner household, being female, and having a part-time (instead of a full-time) job have been found to be important working poverty "risk factors." Immigrant workers and self-employed workers are also more likely to be working poor than other kinds of workers.[3][4]

Economic factors
There is a widespread assumption that economic growth leads to tighter labor markets and higher wages. However, the evidence suggests that economic growth does not always benefit each part of the population equally. For example, the 1980s was a period of economic growth and prosperity in the United States, but most of the economic gains were concentrated at the top of the income spectrum. This means that people near the bottom of the labor market did not benefit from the economic gains of the 1980s. In fact, many have argued that low-skilled workers experienced declining prosperity in the 1980s.[19] Therefore, changing economic conditions do not have as large of an impact on working poverty rates as one might expect.

Labor market institutions
Labor markets can be egalitarian, efficient, or somewhere in the middle. According to Brady, Fullerton, and Cross (2010), "[e]fficient labor markets typically feature flexibility, low unemployment, and higher economic growth, and facilitate the rapid hiring and firing of workers. Egalitarian labor markets are bolstered by strong labor market institutions, higher wages, and greater security" (p562). The United States has an efficient labor market, whereas most European countries have egalitarian labor markets. Each system has its drawbacks, but the egalitarian labor market model is typically associated with lower rates of working poverty. One tradeoff to this is that the "lowest skilled and least employable" people are sometimes excluded from an egalitarian labor market, and must instead rely on government aid in order to survive (p. 563).[4] If the United States switched from an efficient to an egalitarian labor market, it might have to increase its welfare state generosity in order to cope with a higher unemployment rate.

Centralized wage bargaining is a key component of egalitarian labor markets. In a country with centralized wage bargaining institutions, wages for entire industries are negotiated at the regional or national level. This means that similar workers earn similar wages, which reduces income inequality. Lohmann (2009) finds that countries with centralized wage bargaining institutions have lower rates of "pre-transfer" working poverty.[3] The "pre-transfer" working poverty rate is the percentage of workers who fall below the poverty threshold based on their earned wages (not counting government transfers).

Welfare state generosity
Cross-national studies are in agreement that the most important factor affecting working poverty rates is welfare state generosity. A generous welfare state spends a higher proportion of its GDP on things like unemployment insurance, social security, family assistance, childcare subsidies, healthcare subsidies, housing subsidies, transportation subsidies, and food subsidies. Studies on working poverty have found that these kinds of government spending can pull a significant number of people out of poverty, even if they earn low wages. Lohmann's 2009 study shows that welfare state generosity has a significant impact on the "post-transfer" rate of working poverty.[3] The "post-transfer" rate of working poverty is the percentage of working households that fall below the poverty threshold after government aid has been taken into account.

Different types of transfers benefit different kinds of low-wage families. Family benefits will benefit households with children and unemployment benefits will benefit households that include workers with significant work experience. Transfers such as old-age benefits are unlikely to benefit low-wage households unless the elderly are living in the same household. Sometimes, even when benefits are available, those who qualify do not take advantage of them. Migrants in particular are less likely to take advantage of the available benefits.[3]

Obstacles to uplift

The working poor face many of the same daily life struggles as the nonworking poor, but they also face some unique obstacles. Some studies, many of them qualitative, provide detailed insights into the obstacles that hinder workers' ability to find jobs, keep jobs, and make ends meet. Some of the most common struggles faced by the working poor are finding affordable housing, arranging transportation to and from work, buying basic necessities, arranging childcare, having unpredictable work schedules, juggling two or more jobs, and coping with low-status work.

Working poor people who do not have friends or relatives with whom they can live often find themselves unable to rent an apartment of their own. Although the working poor are employed at least some of the time, they often find it difficult to save enough money for a deposit on a rental property. As a result, many working poor people end up in living situations that are actually more costly than a month-to-month rental. For instance, many working poor people, especially those who are in some kind of transitional phase, rent rooms in week-to-week motels. These motel rooms tend to cost much more than a traditional rental, but they are accessible to the working poor because they do not require a large deposit. If someone is unable or unwilling to pay for a room in a motel, they might live in his/her car, in a homeless shelter, or on the street. This is not a marginal phenomenon; in fact, according to the 2008 US Conference of Mayors, one in five homeless people are currently employed.[20]

Of course, some working poor people are able to access housing subsidies (such as a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher) to help cover their housing expenses. However, these housing subsidies are not available to everyone who meets the Section 8 income specifications. In fact, less than 25% of people who qualify for a housing subsidy receive one.[10]

The issue with education starts many times with the working poor from childhood and follows them into their struggle for a substantial income. Children growing up in families of the working poor are not provided the same educational opportunities as their middle-class counterpart. In many cases the low income community is filled with schools that are lacking necessities and support needed to form a solid education.[21] This follows students as they continue in education. In many cases this hinders the possibility for America's youth to continue on to higher education. The grades and credits just are not attained in many cases, and the lack of guidance in the schools leaves the children of the working poor with no degree. Also, the lack of funds for continuing education causes these children to fall behind. In many cases, their parents did not continue on into higher education and because of this have a difficult time finding jobs with salaries that can support a family. Today a college degree is a requirement for many jobs, and it is the low skill jobs that usually only require a high school degree or GED. The inequality in available education continues the vicious cycle of families entering into the working poor.

Given the fact that many working poor people do not own a car or cannot afford to drive their car, where they live can significantly limit where they are able to work, and vice versa.[1] Given the fact that public transportation in many US cities is sparse, expensive, or non-existent, this is a particularly salient obstacle. Some working poor people are able to use their social networks—if they have them—to meet their transportation needs. In a study on low-income single mothers, Edin and Lein found that single mothers who had someone to drive them to and from work were much more likely to be able to support themselves without relying on government aid.[9]

Basic necessities
Like the unemployed poor, the working poor struggle to pay for basic necessities like food, clothing, housing, and transportation. In some cases, however, the working poor's basic expenses can be higher than the unemployed poor's. For instance, the working poor's clothing expenses may be higher than the unemployed poor's because they must purchase specific clothes or uniforms for their jobs.[1] Also, because the working poor are spending much of their time at work, they may not have the time to prepare their own food. In this case, they may frequently resort to eating fast food, which is less healthful and more expensive than home-prepared food.[1]

Working poor parents with young children, especially single parents, face significantly more childcare-related obstacles than other people. Often, childcare costs can exceed a low-wage earners' income, making work, especially in a job with no potential for advancement, an economically illogical activity.[9][10] However, some single parents are able to rely on their social networks to provide free or below-market-cost childcare.[9] There are also some free childcare options provided by the government, such as the Head Start Program. However, these free options are only available during certain hours, which may limit parents' ability to take jobs that require late-night shifts.The U.S. "average" seems to suggest that for one toddler, in full-time day care, on weekdays, the cost is approximately $600.00 per month. But, that figure can rise to well over $1000.00 per month in major metro areas, and fall to less than $350 in rural areas.The average cost of center-based daycare in the United States is $11,666 per year ($972 a month), but prices range from $3,582 to $18,773 a year ($300 to $1,564 monthly), according to the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA).[22]

Work schedules
Many low-wage jobs force workers to accept irregular schedules. In fact, some employers will not hire someone unless they have "open availability," which means being available to work any time, any day.[1] This makes it difficult for workers to arrange for childcare and to take on a second job. In addition, working poor people's working hours can fluctuate wildly from one week to the next, making it difficult for them to budget effectively and save up money.[1]

Multiple jobs
Many low-wage workers have to work multiple jobs in order to make ends meet. In 1996, 6.2 percent of the workforce held two or more full- or part-time jobs. Most of these people held two part-time jobs or one part-time job and one full-time job, but 4% of men and 2% of women held two full-time jobs at the same time.[23] This can be physically exhausting and can often lead to short and long-term health problems.[1]

Low-Status Work
Many low-wage service sector jobs require a great deal of customer service work. Although not all customer service jobs are low-wage or low-status,[24] many of them are. Some argue that the low status nature of some jobs can have negative psychological effects on workers,[1] but others argue that low status workers come up with coping mechanisms that allow them to maintain a strong sense of self-worth.[18][25] One of these coping mechanisms is called boundary work. Boundary work happens when one group of people valorize their own social position by comparing themselves to another group, who they perceive to be inferior in some way. For example, Newman (1999) found that fast food workers in New York City cope with the low-status nature of their job by comparing themselves to the unemployed, who they perceive to be even lower-status than themselves.[26] Thus, although the low-status nature of working poor people's jobs may have some negative psychological effects, some, but probably not all, of these negative effects can be counteracted through coping mechanisms such as boundary work.

Anti-poverty policies

Scholars, policymakers, and others have come up with a variety of proposals for how to reduce or eliminate working poverty. Most of these proposals are directed toward the United States, but they might also be relevant to other countries. The remainder of the section outlines the pros and cons of some of the most commonly proposed solutions.

Welfare state generosity

Cross-national studies like Lohmann (2009) and Brady, Fullerton, and Cross (2010) clearly show that countries with generous welfare states have lower levels of working poverty than countries with less-generous welfare states, even when factors like demography, economic performance, and labor market institutions are taken into account. Having a generous welfare state does two key things to reduce working poverty: it raises the minimum level of wages that people are willing to accept, and it pulls a large portion of low-wage workers out of poverty by providing them with an array of cash and non-cash government benefits.[3] Many think that increasing the United States' welfare state generosity would lower the working poverty rate. A common critique of this proposal is that a generous welfare state would not work because it would stagnate the economy, raise unemployment, and degrade people's work ethic.[8] However, as of 2011, most European countries have a lower unemployment rate than the US. Furthermore, although Western European economies' growth rates can be lower than the US's from time to time, their growth rates tend to be more stable, whereas the US's tends to fluctuate relatively severely. Individual states offer financial assistance for child care, but the aid varies widely. Most assistance is administered through the Child Care and Development Block Grants. Many subsidies have strict income guidelines and are generally for families with children under 13 (the age limit is often extended if the child has a disability). Many subsidies permit home-based care, but some only accept a day care center, so check the requirements.

Some states distribute funds through social or health departments or agencies (like this one in Washington State). For example, the Children's Cabinet in Nevada can refer families to providers, help them apply for subsidies and can even help families who want to pay a relative for care. North Carolina's Smart Start is a public/private partnership that offers funding for child care. Check the National Women's Law Center for each state's child care assistance policy.[27]

Wages and benefits

In the conclusion of her book, Nickel and Dimed (2001), Barbara Ehrenreich argues that Americans need to pressure employers to improve worker compensation.[1] Generally speaking, this implies a need to strengthen the labor movement. Cross-national statistical studies on working poverty suggest that generous welfare states have a larger impact on working poverty than strong labor movements. The labor movements in various countries have accomplished this through political parties of their own (labor parties) or strategic alliances with non-labor parties, for instance, when striving to put a meaningful minimum wage in place. The federal government offers a Flexible Spending Account (FSA) that's administered through workplaces.

If a job offers an FSA (also known as a Dependent Care Account), one can put aside up to $5,000 in per-tax dollars to pay for child care expenses. If both you and your spouse have an FSA, the family limit is $5,000—but you could get as much as $2,000 in tax savings if your combined contributions reach the maximum.[27]

Education and training

Some argue that more vocational training and active labour market policies, especially in growth industries like healthcare and renewable energy, is the solution to working poverty. To be sure, wider availability of vocational training could pull some people out of working poverty, but the fact remains that the low-wage service sector is a rapidly growing part of the US economy. Even if more nursing and clean energy jobs were added to the economy, there would still be a huge portion of the workforce in low-wage service sector jobs like retail, food service, and cleaning. Therefore, it seems clear that any significant reduction in the working poverty rate will have to come from offering higher wages and more benefits to the current, and future, population of service sector workers.

Child support assurance

Given the fact that such a large proportion of working poor households are headed by a single mother, one clear way to reduce working poverty would be to make sure that children's fathers share the cost of child rearing. In cases where the father cannot provide child support, scholars like Irwin Garfinkel advocate for the implementation of a child support guarantee, whereby the government pays childcare costs if the father cannot. Child support is not always a guarantee if the father or mother does not work. For example, if the parent without custody is not working then the parent with custody does not receive any child support unless the non working parent is employed at their job longer than 90 days, excluding if the non begins to work for its a city or government. Also, the government does not pay for childcare cost if you make more than the cut off range (your gross, per county or state.)


Households with two wage-earners have a significantly lower rate of working poverty than households with only one wage-earner. Also, households with two adults, but only one wage-earner, have lower working poverty rates than households with only one adult. Therefore, it seems clear that having two adults in a household, especially if there are children present, is more likely to keep a household out of poverty than having just one adult in a household. Many scholars and policymakers have used this fact to argue that encouraging people to get married and stay married is an effective way to reduce working poverty (and poverty in general). However, this is easier said than done. Research has shown that low-income people marry less often than higher-income people because they have a more difficult time finding a partner who is employed, which is often seen as a prerequisite for marriage.[28] Therefore, unless the employment opportunity structure is improved, simply increasing the number of marriages among low-income people would be unlikely to lower working poverty rates.

Ultimately, effective solutions to working poverty are multifaceted. Each of the aforementioned proposals could help reduce working poverty in the United States, but they might have a greater impact if at least a few of them were pursued simultaneously.

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Ehrenreich, Barbara (2001). Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America. New York: Holt Paperbacks. ISBN 978-0-8050-8838-0.
  2. ^ a b c Kalleberg, Arne (2011). Good Jobs, Bad Jobs: The Rise of Polarized and Precarious Employment Systems in the United States. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. ISBN 978-0-87154-431-5.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Lohmann, Henning (2009). "Welfare States, Labour Market Institutions and the Working Poor: A Comparative Analysis of 20 European Countries". European Sociological Review. 25 (4): 489–504. doi:10.1093/esr/jcn064. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Brady, David; Andrew Fullerton; Jennifer Moren Cross (2010). "More Than Just Nickels and Dimes: A Cross-National Analysis of Working Poverty in Affluent Democracies" (PDF). Social Problems. 57 (4): 559–585. CiteSeerX doi:10.1525/sp.2010.57.4.559. PMID 20976971. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 April 2012. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
  5. ^ Du Bois, W.E.B (1899). The Philadelphia Negro. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0-8122-1573-1.
  6. ^ Galbraith, John Kenneth (2008) [1958]. The Affluent Society. New York: Houghton-Mifflin. ISBN 978-0-395-92500-3.
  7. ^ Harrington, Michael (1962) [1997]. The Other America: Poverty in the United States. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-0-684-82678-3.
  8. ^ a b c Murray, Charles (1984). Losing Ground: American Social Policy 1950–1980. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-04233-3.
  9. ^ a b c d e Edin, Katherine; Laura Lein (1997). "Work, Welfare, and Single Mothers' Economic Survival Strategies". American Journal of Sociology. 62 (2): 253–266. doi:10.2307/2657303. JSTOR 2657303.
  10. ^ a b c de Souza Briggs, Xavier; Popkin, Susan J.; Goering, John (2010). Moving to Opportunity. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-539371-2.
  11. ^ Mead, Lawrence (1986). Beyond Entitlement: The Social Obligations of Citizenship. New York: Free Press. ISBN 978-0-7432-2495-6.
  12. ^ a b c d e US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "A Profile of the Working Poor, 2009" (PDF). US Department of Labor. Retrieved 2011-10-20.
  13. ^ US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "A Profile of the Working Poor, 2000". US Department of Labor.
  14. ^ European Working Conditions Observatory. "Income Poverty in the European Union". Eurostat.
  15. ^ DeNavas-Walt, Carla; Bernadette D. Proctor; Jessica C. Smith. "Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2009" (PDF). US Census Bureau. Retrieved 14 December 2011.
  16. ^ International Labor Organization. "Laborsta Internet". ILO Department of Statistics. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  17. ^ a b Newman, Katherine (2000). No Shame in My Game. Vintage Books. ISBN 978-0-375-70379-9.
  18. ^ Blank, Rebecca (1991). "Why Were Poverty Rates So High in the 1980s?" (PDF). NBER Working Paper No. 3878.
  19. ^ US Conference of Mayors. "2008 Status Report on Hunger & Homelessness" (PDF). Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  20. ^ Fulton, David. 2000. "Teach the Children: Who Decides." New York Times (September 19): A19.
  21. ^ "How much you'll spend on childcare". Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  22. ^ Stinson, John (March 1997). "New Data on Multiple Jobholding Available from the CPS" (PDF). Monthly Labor Review. Retrieved 22 November 2011.
  23. ^ Sherman, Rachel (2007). Class Acts: service and inequality in luxury hotels. Berkeley, California: UC Press. ISBN 978-0-520-24782-6.
  24. ^ Lamont, Michèle (2000). The Dignity of Working Men: Morality and Boundaries of Race, Class, and Immigration. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-00306-4.
  25. ^ Small, Mario Luis; Katherine Newman (2001). "Urban Poverty after The Truly Disadvantaged: The Rediscovery of the Family, the Neighborhood, and Culture". Annual Review of Sociology. 27: 23–45. doi:10.1146/annurev.soc.27.1.23. JSTOR 2678613.
  26. ^ a b "7 Sources to Help Pay for Child Care". Retrieved 8 November 2016.
  27. ^ Wilson, William Julius (1987). The Truly Disadvantaged. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-90131-2.

Accattone is a 1961 Italian drama film written and directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini. Despite being filmed from an original screenplay, Accattone is often perceived as a cinematic rendition of Pasolini's earlier novels, particularly The Ragazzi and Violent Life. It was Pasolini's first film as director, employing what would later be seen as trademark Pasolini characteristics; a cast of non-professional actors hailing from where the movie is set, and thematic emphasis on impoverished individuals.

While many people were surprised by Pasolini's shift from literature to film, he had considered attending the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia in Rome before World War II. Pasolini had collaborated with Federico Fellini on Le notti di Cabiria and considered cinema to be writing with reality. The word accattone [akkatˈto:ne] is an informal term meaning "vagabond" or "scrounger".Accattone is a story of pimps, prostitutes and thieves, types also represented in his novels. The life of the working (and not-working) poor is depicted, in contrast to Italy's postwar economic reforms. Pasolini’s choice of topics was scandalous at the time, as was his blurring of the lines between the sacred and the profane. Although Pasolini tried to distance himself from neorealism, the film is considered to be a kind of second-generation neorealism, with one critic believing it "may be the grimmest movie" he'd ever seen.

American lower class

In the United States, the lower class are those at or near the lower end of the socio-economic hierarchy. As with all social classes in the United States, the lower class is loosely defined and its boundaries and definitions subject to debate and ambiguous popular opinions. Sociologists such as W. Lloyd Warner, Dennis Gilbert and James Henslin divide the lower classes into two. The contemporary division used by Gilbert divides the lower class into the working poor and underclass. Service and low-rung manual laborers are commonly identified as being among the working poor. Those who do not participate in the labor force and rely on public assistance as their main source of income are commonly identified as members of the underclass. Overall the term describes those in easily filled employment positions with little prestige or economic compensation who often lack a high school education and are to some extent disenfranchised from mainstream society.Estimates for how many households are members of this class vary with definition. According to Dennis Gilbert roughly one quarter, 25%, of US households were in the lower classes; 13% were members among the working poor while 12% were members of the underclass. While many in the lower working class are employed in low-skill service jobs, lack of participation in the labor force remains the main cause for the economic plight experienced by those in the lower classes. In 2005, the majority of households (56%) in the bottom income quintile had no income earners while 65% of householders did not work. This contrasts starkly to households in the top quintile, 76% of whom had two or more income earners.Lacking educational attainment as well as disabilities are among the main causes for the infrequent employment. Many households rise above or fall below the poverty threshold, depending on the employment status of household members. While only about 12% of households fall below the poverty threshold at one point in time, the percentage of those who fall below the poverty line at any one point throughout a year is much higher. Working class as well as working poor households may fall below the poverty line if an income earner becomes unemployed. In any given year roughly one out of every five (20%) households falls below the poverty line at some point while up to 40% may fall into poverty within the course of a decade.

Australian Workers Party

The Australian Workers Party (AWP) is an Australian political party which registered with the Australian Electoral Commission in February 2017.

AWP was formed in response to the continual expansion of economic neoliberalism pursued and implemented by successive Australian governments. The party holds that Australia's main political parties both follow neoliberal economic philosophies which have led to unacceptable levels of unemployment, underemployment, workforce casualisation, the deterioration of workers rights, worker exploitation, the emergence of the working poor and inefficient policies affecting Australia's workforce.

Whilst progressive in all of its policy areas and clearly standing for the ideals of "social and economic justice", the party retains its focus on the wellbeing of workers and their families, macroeconomics and rejects neoliberal assertions which have become accepted as mainstream. As such, the party subscribes to the economic branch of Modern Monetary Theory and advocates an economy which prioritises full employment. Notably, the party advocates the implementation of a job guarantee among its policy platform.

AWP is yet to compete in a Federal or State election, but will be fielding candidates for the Senate and select House of Representatives seats in the 2019 Federal Election.

Common Cause

Common Cause is a watchdog group based in Washington, D.C., with chapters in 35 states. It was founded in 1970 by John W. Gardner, a Republican, who was the former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare in the administration of President Lyndon Johnson as well as chair of the National Urban Coalition, an advocacy group for minorities and the working poor in urban areas. As initially founded, Common Cause was prominently known for its efforts to bring about an end to the Vietnam War and lower the voting age from 21 to 18.Sometimes identified as liberal-leaning, Common Cause has also been identified as nonpartisan and advocates government reform. It is identified with the reformist "good government" movement and is often described as a watchdog group. The organization's tagline is "holding power accountable" and its stated mission is "upholding the core values of American democracy. We work to create open, honest, and accountable government that serves the public interest; promote equal rights, opportunity, and representation for all; and empower all people to make their voices heard in the political process."The group is organized as a 501(c)(4) organization, and its sister organization, the Common Cause Educational Fund, is a 501(c)(3) organization.

David K. Shipler

David K. Shipler (born December 3, 1942) is an American author. He won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-fiction in 1987 for Arab and Jew: Wounded Spirits in a Promised Land. He also wrote the book, The Working Poor: Invisible in America. Formerly, he was a foreign correspondent of The New York Times. He has taught at many colleges and universities. Since 2010, he has published the electronic journal, The Shipler Report.


Employment is a relationship between two parties, usually based on a contract where work is paid for, where one party, which may be a corporation, for profit, not-for-profit organization, co-operative or other entity is the employer and the other is the employee. Employees work in return for payment, which may be in the form of an hourly wage, by piecework or an annual salary, depending on the type of work an employee does or which sector she or he is working in. Employees in some fields or sectors may receive gratuities, bonus payment or stock options. In some types of employment, employees may receive benefits in addition to payment. Benefits can include health insurance, housing, disability insurance or use of a gym. Employment is typically governed by employment laws, regulations or legal contracts.


The Enraged Ones (French: Les Enragés) were a small number of firebrands known for defending the lower class and expressing the demands of the radical sans-culottes during the French Revolution. They played an active role in the 31 May 31 – 2 June 1793 Paris uprisings that forced the expulsion of the Girondins from the National Convention, allowing the Montagnards to assume full control.The Enragés became associated with this term for their angry rhetoric appealing to the National Convention to take more measures that would benefit the poor. Jacques Roux, Jean-François Varlet, Jean Théophile Victor Leclerc and Claire Lacombe, the primary leaders of the Enragés, were strident critics of the National Convention for failing to carry out the promises of the French Revolution.The Enragés were not a unified party, rather the individual figureheads that comprised the group identified as the Enragés worked for their own objectives and evidence of cooperation is inconclusive. As individual political personalities, the Enragés were cynical to the point of anarchism, suspicious of most political organizations and individuals and they resisted ties to others. The leaders did not see themselves as part of a shared movement and Roux even called for Varlet's arrest. The notion of the Enragés as a cohesive group was perpetuated by the Jacobins as they lumped their critics Leclerc and Roux into one group.

Episcopal Diocese of Texas

The Episcopal Diocese of Texas is one of the dioceses of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America. The diocese consists of all Episcopal congregations in the southeastern quartile of Texas, including the cities of Austin, Beaumont, Galveston, Houston (the see city) and Waco.

The 153 congregations in the Diocese of Texas have ministries, locally and abroad. They include: homeless and feeding ministries, clinics, after school programs for at risk youth, ministry to seniors, ESL and citizenship classes and much more. Two new churches, St. Julian of Norwich (Austin) and St. Mary Magdalene (Manor) were planted in 2010.

Institutions of the diocese include; St. Vincent's House, a social service agency, in Galveston; St. David's Hospital, a healthcare system, in Austin; El Buen Samaritano, an agency to help working poor in Austin; COTS/LOTS, Community of the Streets, outreach to homeless men and women in midtown Houston; Episcopal High School, Houston; St. Andrew's Episcopal School, Austin; and the Seminary of the Southwest in Austin.

The diocese traces its foundation to Christ Church in Matagorda in 1838, when it became the first foreign missionary field of the Episcopal Church (as part of the Republic of Texas). Together with Christ Church, Houston (1839) and Trinity Church, Galveston (1841) it formed the Episcopal Church of Texas, the Episcopal presence in the Republic of Texas. It formally became a diocese of the Episcopal Church in 1849.

Christ Church became the cathedral of the diocese in 1949.

The current bishop is C. Andrew Doyle (born 1966). He succeeded Don Wimberly as diocesan on June 7, 2009 upon Wimberly's retirement.

Gary Rivlin

Gary Rivlin (born June 20, 1958) is an American journalist and author. He has worked for several different papers, including the Chicago Reader, the Industry Standard, The Investigative Fund, and the New York Times.Rivlin grew up in North Woodmere, New York and graduated from George W. Hewlett High School and Northwestern University.In addition to his work in journalism, Rivlin has written several books. In 1992, he published Fire on the Prairie: Chicago's Harold Washington and the Politics of Race, a book about Chicago area politics that won the Carl Sandburg Award for best non-fiction book of the year.His second book, Drive By, was published in 1995 while he worked for the East Bay Express, where he served as a staff writer and then executive editor. The book was inspired by the drive-by shooting of 13-year-old Kevin Reed in Oakland, California in 1990. Rivlin examined, as he put it, "the human side of this country's youth violence epidemic."Rivlin then wrote two books about technology, The Plot to Get Bill Gates and The Godfather of Silicon Valley. He won two Gerald Loeb Awards honoring excellence in business journalism: he earned the 2001 award in the Magazines category for the story "AOL's Rough Riders", and the 2005 award in the Deadline Writing category for the story "End of an Era".In 2010, he published Broke, USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc. — How the Working Poor Became Big Business, which The New Yorker's James Surowiecki described as a "blistering new investigation of the subprime economy." In it, Rivlin explored how payday lenders, pawn shops, and check cashers exploit the impoverished in the United States. Despite attempting to remain objective, he sided with the activists who tried to rein in on the most usurious practices.In 2015, he published Katrina: After the Flood, about the immediate and long-term effects of Hurricane Katrina on the City of New Orleans.

Gilbert model

The Gilbert model was developed by Dennis Gilbert as a means of a more effective way of classifying people in a given society into social classes.

International Labor Rights Forum

The International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) is a nonprofit advocacy organization headquartered in Washington, D.C., U.S., that describes itself as "an advocate for and with the working poor around the world." ILRF, formerly the "International Labor Rights Education & Research Fund," was founded in 1986, and the organization's mission statement reads: "ILRF believes that all workers have the right to a safe working environment where they are treated with dignity and respect, and where they can organize freely to defend and promote their rights and interests. ILRF works to develop practical and effective tools to assist workers in winning enforcement of protections for their basic rights, and hold labor rights violators accountable."

Myra Wolfgang

Myra K. Wolfgang (May 1914 – April 1976) was a labor leader and women's rights activist in Detroit from the 1930s through the 1970s. She was most active in the labor movement, advocating for the working poor and for women in the workforce.

Nickel and Dimed

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America is a book written by Barbara Ehrenreich. Written from her perspective as an undercover journalist, it sets out to investigate the impact of the 1996 welfare reform act on the working poor in the United States.

The events related in the book took place between spring 1998 and summer 2000. The book was first published in 2001 by Metropolitan Books. An earlier version appeared as an article in the January 1999 issue of Harper's magazine. Ehrenreich later wrote a companion book, Bait and Switch (published September 2005), which discusses her attempt to find a white-collar job.

Poverty in Japan

In Japan, relative poverty is defined as a state at which the income of a household is at or below half of the median household income. According to OECD figures,the mean household net-adjusted disposable income for Japan is US$23,458, higher than the OECD member state average of US$22,387. Unlike several other modern countries, Japan has no official poverty line, making it difficult to get accurate figures on those suffering impoverished conditions. It was estimated in 2006, using the Employment Status Survey, that 8.2% of regular employees made little enough to be considered working poor. In October 2009, Japan's Labor Ministry released a report which stated that almost one in six Japanese, which would be 22 million people, lived in poverty.

Japan's welfare ministry, put forward a request in 2012 national budget to come up with a new poverty index. This request was submitted so that the new index could include important factors affecting poverty, namely, health, food, clothing and living conditions. In 2013, the Japanese government recorded relative poverty rates of 16%. This was the highest on record. Another study showed that 1 out of 3 Japanese women ages 20-64 and living alone were living in poverty. Japan has some of the highest rates of child poverty in the developed world, according to a Unicef report. It ranked Japan 34th out of 41 industrialised countries. According to Japan's Health Ministry statistics, as of May 2017, 16% of Japanese children live below the poverty line.

Poverty industry

The terms poverty industry or poverty business refer to a wide range of money-making activities that attract a large portion of their business from the poor because they are poor. Businesses in the poverty industry often include payday loan centers, pawnshops, rent-to-own centers, casinos, liquor stores, lotteries, tobacco stores, credit card companies, and bail-bond services. Illegal ventures such as loansharking might also be included. The poverty industry makes roughly US$33 billion a year in the United States. In 2010, elected American federal officials received more than $1.5 million in campaign contributions from poverty-industry donors.


A sabbatical (from Hebrew: shabbat (שבת) (i.e., Sabbath), in Latin: sabbaticus, in Greek: sabbatikos (σαββατικός)) is a rest or break from work.

The Working Poor

The Working Poor: Invisible in America is a 2004 book written by Pulitzer Prize-winner David K. Shipler. From personal interviews and research, Shipler presents in this book anecdotes and life stories of individuals considered the working poor. Using their lives as examples, he illustrates the struggles the working poor face while attempting to escape poverty. Throughout the book, the author describes numerous economic issues preventing the working poor from escaping poverty.

Shipler explores some flaws of comparative advantages. One case is illustrated by clothing companies who hire contractors that hire illegal immigrants. The contractors pay employees below the minimum wage to work in low quality sweatshops for hours, exceeding the legal limit.The New York Times review stated, "Mr. Shipler avoids saying anything too controversial and as a result his book seems unlikely to change minds on either the left or the right. ... Nonetheless, by exposing the wretched condition of these invisible Americans, he has performed a noble and badly needed service." The San Francisco Chronicle reviewer wrote, "Shipler is informative, sometimes outraged, and often eloquent in rendering the working poor visible", but also noted that "the author appears to hope for good will from above, within the system, to carry out his suggestions."

Transmigration program

The transmigration program (Indonesian: Transmigrasi, from Dutch, transmigratie) was an initiative of the Dutch colonial government, and later continued by the Indonesian government to move landless people from densely populated areas of Indonesia to less populous areas of the country. This involved moving people permanently from the island of Java, but also to a lesser extent from Bali and Madura, to less densely populated areas including Papua (ended in 2015 by president Joko Widodo), Kalimantan, Sumatra, and Sulawesi. The stated purpose of this program was to reduce the considerable poverty and overpopulation on Java, to provide opportunities for hard-working poor people, and to provide a workforce to better utilize the natural resources of the outer islands. The program, however, has been controversial as fears from native populations of "Javanization" and "Islamization" have strengthened separatist movements and communal violence. The incomers are Madurese and Javanese.


Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing (WIEGO) is a global research - policy network focused on securing livelihoods for the working poor, especially women, in the informal economy. WIEGO creates change by building capacity among informal worker organizations, expanding the knowledge base, and influencing local, national and international policies and has a diverse constituency cutting across the fields of action, research, and policy-making.

The WIEGO network was founded in April 1997 by a group of ten activists, researchers, and development practitioners, based around the globe, who worked on the informal economy and articulated a shared concern that the working poor, especially women, in the informal economy were not well understood, valued, or supported in policy circles or by the international development community. Among the founders was Professor Martha Chen, a Harvard Lecturer in Public Policy and currently a Senior Advisor with the network. The founding steering committee chair was Indian civil rights leader Dr. Ela Bhatt.

Today WIEGO is a network of 211 individual and institutional members in over 40 countries which aims to:

(i) Put issues of employment/work in general, and of informal workers in particular, at the centre of development discourse, policies and processes relating to growth and poverty;

(ii) Investigate and increase understanding of the size, composition and contribution of the informal economy and of the status, needs and constraints of specific groups of informal workers;

(iii) Investigate and increase understanding of how different groups of the working poor, especially women, in the informal economy are linked to the formal economy and inserted into the global economy;

(iv) Promote appropriate and equitable policies, laws, regulations and institutions that can improve and secure the livelihoods of the working poor in the informal economy.

The WIEGO Network comprises- membership-based organizations (MBOs) of informal workers who are involved in the identification, prioritization and design of all our activities, individual researchers who are engaged in analysis of the informal economy and development practitioners who are concerned with poverty and informality.

In July 2007, WIEGO was registered as a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee in the UK (WIEGO Ltd.) with a formal Constitution and Articles of Association. In 2011, WIEGO was granted charity status by the Charity Commission for England and Wales (Registered Charity No. 1143510).

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