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Oct. 14, 2008                                                                                      Laura Hayes, 202-577-3062
                                                                                                            Ed Hatcher, 301-379-2169

America’s Working Families Continue to Fall Behind

New Report Finds One in Four Working Families are Low-Income


Editors’ Advisory:
There will be a conference call with the authors of “Still Working Hard, Still Falling Short” on Tuesday, October 14, 2008 at 1 p.m. EDT.  Please call 1-866-305-2467, code 381405.

More than one in four working families – a total of 42 million adults and children – are low-income, earning too little to meet their basic needs, according to a new report.

“Still Working Hard, Still Falling Short,” a follow-up to the 2004 report “Working Hard, Falling Short,” found that an additional 350,000 working families were low-income in 2006 compared to 2002. The report also found increasing income inequality, with a widening gap between the share of income the highest-earning families receive and that earned by the least affluent. This increase in income disparity and in the number of low-income working families came during a period of economic expansion, suggesting that those numbers will continue to grow during this economic downturn.

“Understandably, all eyes today are focused on the financial and economic crisis affecting America’s working families,” said Brandon Roberts, report author. “But the stark reality is that America’s working families have been in economic crisis long before this year.”

“Still Working Hard, Still Falling Short” was produced by the Working Poor Families Project, a national initiative supported by the Annie E. Casey, Ford, Joyce, and C.S. Mott Foundations to examine the conditions of America’s working families.

The report provides in-depth national and 50 state data on low-income working families and the challenges they face, including information about education levels, racial makeup, the number of children, housing costs and health insurance coverage.

“Low-income working families pay a higher percentage of their income for housing than other working families and are far less likely to have health insurance,” according to the report. “At the same time, low-income working families work hard. Adults in low-income working families worked an average of 2,552 hours per year in 2006, the equivalent of almost one and a quarter full-time workers per family.”

Inadequate education plays a major role in preventing low-income workers from climbing the economic ladder, the report found. While almost half of all job openings require more than a high school education, 88 million adult workers are not prepared for these positions. According to the report, federal and state resources for adult education or skills development programs meet only about one-tenth of the need.


The report calls for stronger policies for working families at both the state and federal levels and highlights state policies that invest in skills development programs, increase their minimum wage above the federal wage standard, and support initiatives such as paid parental level for family and medical needs.

“State actions are only part of the answer. The federal government has a role and responsibility to ensure that all hard-working families have a true opportunity for economic advancement and success,” according to the report. Four specific recommendations for federal policies are included in the report, which focus on increasing economic opportunities through better education, wages and job quality.

Additional report findings include:

  • In 13 states, 33 percent or more of working families are low-income, while in Mississippi and New Mexico, more than 40 percent of working families are low-income.


  • In 2006, California and Texas had more that a million low-income working families, while Florida and New York each had more than half a million.


  • In 13 states, 50 percent or more of minority working families are low-income.


  • Nationally, more than one in five jobs – 22 percent – pays wages that fall below the federal poverty threshold. In eight states, more than a third of all jobs are in poverty-wage occupations.


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The Working Poor Families Project was launched in 2002. With assistance from the Annie E. Casey, Ford, Joyce and C.S. Mott Foundations, this national initiative annually examines the conditions of America’s working families and supports state nonprofit organizations to strengthen state policies in order to promote economic advancement and success. The Working Poor Family Project operates in 24 states and the District of Columbia.