Issues

Jobs

Jobs are the foundation of current antipoverty programs—but what pushes working people into poverty? While children and the elderly experience particularly high rates of poverty, the majority of those in poverty are of working age. The working poor’s numbers have risen to almost 10 million. Low-wage jobs can push even full-time workers into poverty, and the real value of the minimum wage is lower today than it was 25 years ago. Of the ten most common occupations in the United States, only two pay a living wage. But low wages aren’t the only factor that weighs down workers. The United States ranks at the bottom of OECD countries in measures that protect employees. Collective bargaining covers only 12 percent of U.S. workers, and only 15 percent of low-wage employees receive paid sick time. This and other factors including unpredictable schedules, limited opportunities for career advancement, lack of paid parental leave and inaccessible childcare options can make it more difficult to work and easier to slip into poverty. This section of the Spotlight website gathers the latest research, news and opinion on jobs and poverty.