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November/December 2003, Vol. 126, Nos. 11 & 12
The working poor in 2001
Abraham T. Mosisa
Poverty statistics are used to gauge the economic well-being of the Nation. The number and characteristics of people who experience economic hardship because of very low income levels is a function of very complex socioeconomic, family, and individual issues.1
A number of people who are in poverty also participate significantly in the labor force. In 2001, 32.9 million people of all ages, or 11.7 percent of the population, lived at or below the official poverty level. 2 Most of them were children, or adults who had not participated in the labor force during the year. However, about 6.8 million were 16 years and older and were in the labor force for 27 weeks or more during the year. These persons, also referred to as the working poor, represented 4.9 percent of all persons 16 years and older who were in the labor force for 27 weeks or more—an increase of 319,000 (0.2 percentage point) from the previous year.
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1 More detailed information on the working poor in 2001 was discussed in Bureau of Labor Statistics Report 968, June 2003. This article summarizes the findings of that report.
2 Poverty in the United States: 2001, Current Population Reports, Series P60–219, (U.S. Bureau of the Census, September 2002), p.1.
Related BLS programs
Current Population Survey
What does it mean
to be poor in America?—May
Raising the minimum wage: effects on family poverty.—July 1990.
A profile of the working poor.—Oct. 1989.
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