Not keeping up with the Joneses

As it turns out, keeping up with the Joneses may be out of reach for 1 in 4 American families. That is the estimated number of working families who are low income.

More than 1 in 5 jobs pay wages less than the poverty threshold.

A report by The Working Poor Families Project, Still Working Hard, Still Falling Short, found that in 13 states 33 percent or more of working families, are low-income. Two states, Mississippi and New Mexico, have 40 percent or more families classified as low-income. Between 2002 and 2006 the number of low-income working families increased by 350,000, and income inequality among working families increased by almost 10 percent. In all, a total of 42 million adults and children struggled to get by in 2006.

“Nationally, more than one in five jobs, or 22 percent, is in an occupation paying wages that fall below the federal poverty threshold. In eight states, more than one-third of all jobs are in poverty-wage occupations.” – Still Working Hard, Still Falling Short

The report defined low-wage families as those earning less than double the poverty rate. For a family of four, that would have been an annual income of $41,228 or less in 2006.

The good news is that last month the federal minimum wage was increased to $7.25 an hour. The bad news is that in 2006 a full-time worker needed to earn an hourly wage of $9.91 to meet the poverty threshold for a family of four.

By Jennifer E. Cooper