The Working Poor Families Project is a national initiative focused on state workforce development policies involving: 1) education and skills training for adults; 2) economic development; and 3) income and work supports. The WPFP supports state nonprofit groups to engage in a two-part, phased process that begins with an in-depth assessment of the economic conditions and state policies affecting working families and is followed by actions to strengthen those conditions and policies.
The state policy assessment process is conducted the first year a state nonprofit joins the WPFP. The assessment uses a framework of indicators provided by the WPFP to examine current economic conditions and related state policies and programs. This examination culminates in a State Policy Assessment Report that points out where a state’s investments and policies stand in relation to other states and the nation. Most importantly, the report recommends actions for improving state policies and program operations.
Following the release of the state report, WPFP groups engage in the Strengthening State Policy Initiative that involves educating key stakeholders on the opportunities to improve state workforce development systems and policies. Each group develops a policy agenda then works to implement that agenda with other stakeholders such as community-based organizations, state and local nonprofit groups, associations of education providers, employers, and state agencies.
As a result of their involvement in WPFP, the state nonprofits have:
- Contributed to the strengthening of state policies and practices;
- Increased and sustained state funds that support the goals of the WPFP; and
- Increased their organizational capacity and built important new relationships.
A unique feature of the Project is the annual analysis of U.S. Census data to identify the number and conditions of low-income working families in the country and in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. In both 2004 and 2008 the WPFP produced a report highlighting the challenges faced by working low-income families. The most recent analyses are documented in WPFP 2011 policy brief Overlooked and Underpaid. Key findings include:
- The number of low-income working families has increased for three straight years, and now stands at 10.2 million.
- More than 46 million people, including 23 million children, lived in low-income working families, an increase of 1.6 million people from 2009.
- In 21 states—mostly in the South and West—a third or more of all working families are low-income.
- Forty-four percent of working families with at least one minority parent were low- income, twice the proportion of white working families (22 percent).
- The richest 20 percent of working families take home nearly half of all income.
The goal of economic self-sufficiency remains an elusive dream for far too many working families.