March 16, 2015
Contact, Jeff Sheldon
Communications Director, Nebraska Appleseed
Office: (402) 438-8853
Mobile: (402) 840-7289
Report: Minority Working Families in Nebraska falling behind
Latino Immigrants at Greatest Risk; Study Concludes State Can Address the Problem
LINCOLN – A new study concludes that a sharp racial and ethnic divide has emerged within the world of low-income working families, posing a critical equity and economic challenge to Nebraska and the nation.
Unless Nebraska lawmakers are willing to pursue policies that would improve conditions, African-Americans and Latinos will continue to emerge as a larger – but under-prepared and underpaid – segment of the workforce.
Read the Report: “Low-Income, Working Families: The Racial/Ethnic Divide”
The disturbing portrait of America’s low-income working families was sketched by the Working Poor Families Project based on new analysis of the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The Project’s study sheds a fresh light on what’s happening inside the world of the working poor, where adults are working hard but find it difficult – if not impossible – to get ahead. Within this world at the bottom of America’s economic spectrum, a stark divide has emerged between white and Asian families compared to black and Latino families.
“In 2013, working families headed by racial/ethnic minorities were twice as likely to be poor or low-income compared with non-Hispanic whites, a gap that has increased since the onset of the Great Recession in 2007,” the report states. “The significant differences among racial/ethnic groups present a critical challenge to ensuring economic growth and bringing opportunities to all workers, families and communities across the United States.”
In Nebraska, there are 68,380 low-income working families, meaning their total income fell below 200 percent of the official poverty rate. Almost 61 percent of all minority working families in the state are low-income, compared to 25 percent of all white working families.
“One significant reason for these disparities is that many people of color lack a high school diploma or equivalent,” said James Goddard, Director of Economic Justice & Health Care Access at Nebraska Appleseed. “One key to moving these families out of poverty is for the state to get serious about investing in adult education and career pathways, so that all families have the opportunity to acquire the skills needed to earn a decent wage and move ahead.”
While disparities cannot be erased overnight, policymakers can start to reduce the gaps with a two-pronged approach that simultaneously increases access to education and training while enacting policies that make hard work pay. State governments have demonstrated success with policy initiatives including:
Extending Medicaid coverage to more workers made eligible by the Affordable Care Act.
Expanding child care assistance and other supports for students with children.
Supporting programs that link education to career opportunities and helping English language learners.
Encouraging employers to provide paid sick leave for all workers.
“Providing all low-income families with the tools they need to succeed is critical to the long-term health of Nebraska and our nation,” Goddard said. “Our state’s leaders must take action to ensure the American Dream is once again accessible by all.”