Despite more families holding jobs, the ranks of the working poor are increasing according to a new report from the Working Poor Families Project.
The report, “Low-Income Working Families: The Growing Economic Gap,” shows nearly one-third of the nation’s working families are paid wages so low they struggle to meet their basic needs. Indeed, according to the report, 32 percent of working families in Nebraska are low-income, giving Nebraska a rank of 29th nationally. Read the Washington Post’s coverage, “Ranks of working poor increased.”
One excerpt from the report states:
“New data from the U.S. Census Bureau show that the number of low-income, working families in the United States increased to 10.4 million in 2011, up from 10.2 million a year earlier. This means that nearly one third of all working families – 32 percent – may not have enough money to meet basic needs.”
The report dispels the often-repeated myth that low-income families are “takers” who do not contribute to the economy. It shows in 2011 that 70 percent of all low-income families and 50 percent of poor families were working, and yet still could not afford to pay basic living expenses.
We can and must do better by investing in policies that help working families gain the education and skills they need to earn a family-supporting wage. This includes investing in wage subsidy programs and in expanding bridge programs (accelerated learning courses and supportive services).
Improving one’s circumstances through hard work is a core Nebraska value, and our state must reaffirm that value by making our low-income working families a priority and investing in ideas that allow families to work their way out of poverty.