Poverty – 2007 style

Poverty, unemployment, depression are all on our minds these days. It is almost a breath of fresh air to return to the good ol’ days of 2007 when poverty was off our national radar screen. Of course, that didn’t mean it wasn’t there. It was. In 2007, 37.3 million people, or 12.5 % of Americans, lived at or below the official poverty level. And, believe it or not, many of those people were able to be poor while also working. In fact, 7.5 million of us were in the ranks of the working poor.

The data on poverty among workers can be seen in a new report just out from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, A Profile of the Working Poor, 2007 (March 2009).

The report includes narrative discussions of the data, as well as tables and charts that show the details by demographics and over time, as well as the study methodology. Briefly more working women than working men are poor. More whites are poor at 71% of working poor, but you are more likely to be poor if you are a minority. Young people are more likely to be poor, but fortunately for them youth is curable if you live long enough. And low education level is associated with poverty.

4.2 million American families lived in poverty, despite having at least one family member who worked. Remember that is total of families, so far more people in those families with a working family member were in poverty. Being a single parent is a good predictor of poverty.

Here are some of the highlights from the report.

• Among persons in the labor force for 27 weeks or more in 2007, 3.6 percent of those usually employed full time were classified as working poor, compared with 11.9 percent of part-time workers.

• Black and Hispanic workers continued to be more than twice as likely as their White counterparts to be poor. Asians were least likely to be among the working poor in 2007.

• The likelihood of being classifi ed as working poor greatly diminishes as workers attain higher levels of education. In 2007, only 1.3 percent of college graduates who were in the labor force
for at least 27 weeks were among the working poor, compared with 16.5 percent of those with less than a high school diploma.

• Among families with at least one member in the labor force for 27 weeks or more, those families with children under 18 years old were 5 times more likely than those without children to live in poverty.

• Women who maintain families were more than twice as likely as their male counterparts to be among the working poor.

It is a sad statement about our economy that you can be working and still be poor. Good jobs provide buy in and bring a lot of good to our communities.

Unionization brings people out of poverty, and part of the problem is related to low unionization rates. But there are other reasons as well, including the loss of good paying jobs as a result of globalization. There was nothing inevitable about losing those jobs. Treaties and other policies of our country greased the slids.

We can bring them back and develop new jobs. That should be a high priority for this administration.

By the way, a survey by Grant Thornton finds that

A recent survey of U.S. companies finds that half of companies are freezing executive base salaries in 2009. In addition, another 15 percent are implementing salary reduction programs.

In regards to bonuses, 69 percent of companies are paying out 2008 bonuses below targeted levels, with more than a quarter not rewarding bonuses at all for 2008. Looking forward, companies report that 2009 bonus budgets will be the same or lower than 2008.

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