They’re Called the Working Poor

Walmart BinsThey are called the working poor: working people whose incomes fall below the poverty line. Nobody even takes notice of these long-suffering, hard workers until a headline about an employer asks employees for food donations for other other employees. 

Walmart is the world’s largest private employer. The average Walmart sales associate makes $8.81/hour. That translates into $15,576 a year IF the associate works a full-time schedule of 34 hours a week. Most Walmart sales associates have erratic or limited work schedules – not by their choice – that are not even close to full-time.

The 2013 federal poverty level for a family of three is $19,530. The average Walmart sales associate’s income is below the poverty line, making them eligible for social safety net programs like reduced school lunches, SNAP (food stamps), housing assistance, and other programs.

Walmart may be signaled out, but they are hardly the only employer whose employees do not earn enough to meet their families’ basic needs. It’s estimated that nearly one-third (32%) of all working families fall below the federal poverty line, even though they are working full- or part-time, often cobbling together several part-time jobs in order to increase their incomes.

What do you know about the working poor? Let’s see what the misconceptions are about the working poor.

MYTH: Low-income families are takers, relying on government assistance instead of working.
FACT: The average annual work effort for low-income working families is 2,552 hours, roughly one and one-quarter (1.25) full-time jobs.

MYTH: Low-income working families are headed by single parents.
FACT: 52% of low-income working families are headed by married couples.

MYTH: Low-income working families are headed by immigrants.
FACT: 69% of low-income working families have only American-born parents.

MYTH: Low-income working families have very young parents.
FACT: 89% of low-income working families have a parent between ages 25 and 54.

MYTH:Low-income working families are overwhelmingly minority.
FACT: 43% of low-income working families have white, non-Hispanic parents.

MYTH: Low-income working families are dependent on public assistance.
FACT: 25% of low-income working families receive food stamp assistance.

To work hard and still not make a living wage is challenging. But to work hard with no chance of ever earning enough to provide and care for your family slowly gnaws away at your self-worth and pride. The vast majority of working poor are doing everything possible to provide and care for their family in the midst of incredible obstacles. We must do our part. We can start by living and working for justice. There is enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.

Next headline stop: Life advice from McDonald’s.

In cased you missed it, here’s where it all began.

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