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April 2017 Report 1068

A Profile of the Working Poor, 2015

A Profile of the Working Poor, 2015 image

In 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 43.1 million people, or 13.5 percent of the nation’s population, lived below the official poverty level.1 (See the technical notes section for examples of poverty levels.) Although the poor were primarily children and adults who had not participated in the labor force during the year, 8.6 million individuals were among the “working poor” in 2015, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics; the 8.6 million figure was down from 9.5 million in 2014. The working poor are people who spent at least 27 weeks in the labor force (that is, working or looking for work) but whose incomes still fell below the official poverty level. In 2015, the working-poor rate—the ratio of the working poor to all individuals in the labor force for at least 27 weeks—was 5.6 percent, 0.7 percentage point lower than the previous year’s figure. (See table A and 1 and chart 1)

Following are some highlights from the 2015 data:

  • Full-time workers continued to be much less likely to be among the working poor than were part-time workers. Among persons in the labor force for 27 weeks or more, 3.4 percent of those usually employed full time were classified as working poor, compared with 14.1 percent of part-time workers (table 1).
  • Women were more likely than men to be among the working poor. In addition, Blacks and Hispanics continued to be more than twice as likely as Whites and Asians to be among the working poor (table 2).
  • The likelihood of being classified as working poor diminishes as workers attain higher levels of education. Among those with less than a high school diploma, 16.2 percent of those who were in the labor force for at least 27 weeks were classified as working poor, compared with 1.7 percent of college graduates (table 3).
  • Individuals who were employed in service occupations continued to be more likely to be among the working poor than those employed in other major occupational groups (table 4).
  • Among families with at least one member in the labor force for 27 weeks or more, those with children under 18 years old were about 5 times as likely as those without children to live in poverty. Families maintained by women were almost twice as likely as families maintained by men to be living below the poverty level (table 5).
Table A. Poverty status of people and primary families in the labor force for 27 weeks or more, 2007–15 (Numbers in thousands)
Characteristic200720082009201020112012201320142015

Total in the labor force1

146,567147,838147,902146,859147,475148,735149,483150,319152,230

In poverty

7,5218,88310,39110,51210,38210,61210,4509,4878,560

Working-poor rate

5.16.07.07.27.07.17.06.35.6

Unrelated individuals

33,22632,78533,79834,09933,73134,81035,06135,01835,953

In poverty

2,5583,2753,9473,9473,6213,8514,1413,3953,137

Working-poor rate

7.710.011.711.610.711.111.89.78.7

Primary families2

65,15865,90765,46764,93166,22566,54166,46266,73267,193

In poverty

4,1694,5385,1935,2695,4695,4785,1375,1084,607

Working-poor rate

6.46.97.98.18.38.27.77.76.9

1 Includes individuals in families, not shown separately.

2 Primary families with at least one member in the labor force for more than half the year.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey (CPS), Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC).

This report presents data on the relationship between labor force activity and poverty status in 2015 for workers and their families. These data were collected in the 2016 Annual Social and Economic Supplement to the Current Population Survey. (For a detailed description of the source of the data and an explanation of the concepts and definitions used in the report, see the technical notes.) The specific income thresholds used to determine people’s poverty status vary, depending on whether the individuals are living with family members or are living alone or with nonrelatives. For family members, the poverty threshold is determined by their family’s total income; for individuals not living in families, their personal income is used as the determinant.

 

Demographic characteristics

Among those who were in the labor force for 27 weeks or more in 2015, the number of women classified as working poor (4.5 million) was higher than that of men (4.1 million). The working-poor rate also continued to be higher for women (6.3 percent) than for men (5.0 percent). The working-poor rates for both women and men were down from a year earlier. (See table 2.)

Blacks and Hispanics were more than twice as likely as Whites and Asians to be among the working poor. In 2015, the working-poor rates of Blacks and Hispanics were 11.2 percent and 10.1 percent, respectively, compared with 4.8 percent for Whites and 4.1 percent for Asians. (See chart 2 and table 2.)

Chart2

 

Among Whites and Blacks, the working-poor rate was higher for women than for men. The rates for White women and White men who spent at least 27 weeks in the labor force were 5.2 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively. The rate for Black women was 13.3 percent, compared with 8.8 percent for Black men. Among Asians and Hispanics, the rates for women and men were little different from each other.

Young workers are more likely to be poor than are workers in older age groups, in part because earnings are lower for young workers and the unemployment rate for young workers is higher. Among youths who were in the labor force for 27 weeks or more, 10.8 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds and 12.2 percent of 20- to 24-year-olds were living in poverty in 2015. Those rates were considerably higher than the rates for workers ages 25 to 34 (6.6 percent) and 35 to 44 (6.4 percent). Workers ages 45 to 54, 55 to 64, and 65 and older had lower working-poor rates—3.7 percent, 3.4 percent, and 1.6 percent, respectively—than did the younger age groups.

Educational attainment

Achieving higher levels of education reduces the incidence of living in poverty. Individuals who complete more years of education usually have greater access to higher paying jobs—such as management, professional, and related occupations—than those with fewer years of education. Of all the people in the labor force for 27 weeks or more in 2015, those with less than a high school diploma had a higher working-poor rate (16.2 percent) than did high school graduates with no college (7.6 percent). Workers with an associate’s degree and those with a bachelor’s degree or higher had the lowest working-poor rates (3.8 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively). In 2015, at all levels of educational attainment, except for bachelor’s degree or higher, women were more likely than men to be among the working poor. (Among those with a bachelor’s degree or higher, men and women were equally likely to be classified as working poor.) Blacks and Hispanics generally were more likely to be among the working poor than were Whites and Asians with the same educational attainment. (See table 3.)

Occupation

The likelihood of being among the working poor varies widely by occupation. Workers in occupations requiring higher education and characterized by relatively high earnings—such as management, professional, and related occupations—were least likely to be classified as working poor. For example, 1.8 percent of those in management, professional, and related occupations were among the working poor in 2015. By contrast, individuals employed in occupations that typically do not require high levels of education and that are characterized by relatively low earnings were more likely to be among the working poor. For instance, 11.6 percent of service workers who were in the labor force for at least 27 weeks were classified as working poor in 2015. Indeed, service occupations, with 3.0 million working poor, accounted for 38 percent of all those classified as working poor. Among those employed in natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations, 6.9 percent were classified as working poor. Within this occupation group, 14.1 percent of workers in farming, fishing, and forestry occupations were among the working poor. (See table 4.)

Families

In 2015, 4.6 million families were living below the poverty level despite having at least one member in the labor force for half the year or more. This figure was down from 5.1 million in 2014. Among families with only one member in the labor force for at least 27 weeks in 2015, married-couple families had a lower likelihood of living below the poverty level (8.5 percent) than did families maintained by women (23.9 percent) or by men (14.0 percent). (See table 5.)

Among families with at least one member in the labor force for more than half the year, those with children in the household were much more likely to live below the poverty level than those without children. The proportion of families with children under age 18 that lived in poverty was 11.1 percent, compared with 2.2 percent for families without children. Among families with children under 18, the working-poor rate for those maintained by women (24.8 percent) was higher than that for those maintained by men (15.3 percent). Married-couple families with children under 18 had a working-poor rate of 6.2 percent in 2015.

Unrelated individuals

The “unrelated individuals” category includes individuals who live by themselves or with others not related to them. Of the 36.0 million unrelated individuals who were in the labor force for half the year or longer, 3.1 million lived below the poverty level in 2015, down from 3.4 million a year earlier. The working-poor rate for unrelated individuals was 8.7 percent, a decrease of 1.0 percentage point from the previous year’s figure. (See table 6.)

Within the group of unrelated individuals, teenagers continued to be the most likely to be among the working poor. In 2015, 46.3 percent of teens who were in the labor force for 27 weeks or more and who lived on their own or with others not related to them lived below the poverty level. Overall, the working-poor rate for men living alone or with nonrelatives was 8.2 percent, and the rate for women was 9.3 percent. The working-poor rates for unrelated individuals were 13.9 percent for Blacks, 10.7 percent for Hispanics, 8.2 percent for Asians, and 7.7 percent for Whites. (See table 7.)

Of the 3.1 million unrelated individuals considered to be among the working poor in 2015, about 3 out of 5 lived with others. These individuals had a much higher working-poor rate than individuals who lived alone. Many unrelated individuals living below the poverty level may live with others out of necessity. By contrast, many of those who live alone do so because they have sufficient income to support themselves. Unrelated individuals’ poverty status, however, is determined by each person’s resources. The pooling of resources and sharing of living expenses may permit some individuals in this category—who are technically classified as poor—to live at a higher standard than they would have if they lived alone.

Labor market problems

As noted earlier, people who usually work full time are less likely to live in poverty than are those who work part time, yet there remains a sizable group of full-time workers who live below the poverty threshold. Among those who participated in the labor force for 27 weeks or more and usually worked in full-time wage and salary jobs, 3.8 million, or 3.2 percent, were classified as working poor in 2015—down from 4.4 million a year earlier. (See table 8.)

There are three major labor market problems that can hinder a worker’s ability to earn an income that is above the poverty threshold: low earnings, periods of unemployment, and involuntary part-time employment. (See the technical notes section for detailed definitions.)

In 2015, 82 percent of the working poor who usually work full time experienced at least one of the major labor market problems. Low earnings continued to be the most common problem, with 68 percent subject to low earnings, either as the only problem or in combination with other labor market problems. About 31 percent experienced unemployment as the main labor market problem or in conjunction with other problems. Four percent of the working poor experience all three problems: low earnings, unemployment, and involuntary part-time employment.

Some 685,000, or 18 percent, of the working poor who usually worked full time did not experience any of the three primary labor market problems in 2015. Their classification as working poor may be explained by other factors, including short-term employment, some weeks of voluntary part-time work, or a family structure that increases the risk of poverty.

Notes

1 Income and Poverty in the United States: 2015, Current Population Reports, P60-256 (U.S. Census Bureau, September 2016), table 3, https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2016/demo/p60-256.pdf.

Statistical Tables

Table 1. People in the labor force: poverty status and work experience, by weeks in the labor force, 2015 (Numbers in thousands)
Poverty status and work force Total in labor force 27 weeks or more in labor force
Total 50 to 52 weeks

Total

 

Total in the labor force

165,495 152,230 138,933

 Did not work during the year

3,167 1,588 1,306

 Worked during the year

162,329 150,642 137,627

  Usual full-time workers

129,254 124,652 117,069

  Usual part-time workers

33,075 25,990 20,558

   Involuntary part-time workers

7,666 6,661 5,626

  Voluntary part-time workers

25,409 19,329 14,932

At or above poverty level

 

Total in the labor force

154,515 143,670 131,910

 Did not work during the year

1,969 903 752

 Worked during the year

152,546 142,767 131,158

  Usual full-time workers

124,241 120,431 113,484

  Usual part-time workers

28,305 22,336 17,675

   Involuntary part-time workers

5,772 5,014 4,232

  Voluntary part-time workers

22,533 17,322 13,443

Below poverty level

 

Total in the labor force

10,980 8,560 7,023

 Did not work during the year

1,197 685 554

 Worked during the year

9,783 7,875 6,469

  Usual full-time workers

5,013 4,221 3,586

  Usual part-time workers

4,770 3,654 2,884

   Involuntary part-time workers

1,894 1,647 1,394

  Voluntary part-time workers

2,876 2,008 1,489

Rate1

 

Total in the labor force

6.6 5.6 5.1

 Did not work during the year

37.8 43.1 42.4

 Worked during the year

6.0 5.2 4.7

  Usual full-time workers

3.9 3.4 3.1

  Usual part-time workers

14.4 14.1 14.0

   Involuntary part-time workers

24.7 24.7 24.8

  Voluntary part-time workers

11.3 10.4 10.0

1 Number below the poverty level as a percentage of the total in the labor force.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey (CPS), Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC).

Table 2. People in the labor force for 27 weeks or more: poverty status, by age, gender, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, 2015 (Numbers in thousands)
Age and gender Total Below poverty level Rate1
Total White Black or African American Asian Hispanic or Latino Total White Black or African American Asian Hispanic or Latino Total White Black or African American Asian Hispanic or Latino

Total, 16 years and older

152,230 119,878 18,502 8,965 25,019 8,560 5,746 2,073 364 2,520 5.6 4.8 11.2 4.1 10.1

  16 to 19 years

3,436 2,638 458 104 668 372 241 90 12 96 10.8 9.1 19.6 12.0 14.4

  20 to 24 years

13,187 9,990 1,948 561 2,913 1,609 1,043 421 58 358 12.2 10.4 21.6 10.4 12.3

  25 to 34 years

34,008 25,788 4,628 2,197 6,712 2,251 1,443 636 77 667 6.6 5.6 13.7 3.5 9.9

  35 to 44 years

31,909 24,315 4,163 2,354 6,281 2,031 1,372 472 86 784 6.4 5.6 11.3 3.7 12.5

  45 to 54 years

33,364 26,654 3,959 1,917 4,978 1,242 865 250 86 403 3.7 3.2 6.3 4.5 8.1

  55 to 64 years

26,832 22,333 2,574 1,405 2,740 904 671 178 33 171 3.4 3.0 6.9 2.4 6.2

  65 years and older

9,495 8,159 772 426 727 153 112 26 12 41 1.6 1.4 3.4 2.9 5.6

Men, 16 years and older

81,218 65,149 8,751 4,810 14,388 4,053 2,882 772 209 1,374 5.0 4.4 8.8 4.3 9.5

  16 to 19 years

1,704 1,330 226 51 336 147 85 38 8 34 8.6 6.4 16.7 10.1

  20 to 24 years

6,829 5,206 985 272 1,594 717 470 161 37 172 10.5 9.0 16.4 13.7 10.8

  25 to 34 years

18,408 14,230 2,216 1,243 3,988 1,013 725 216 37 364 5.5 5.1 9.7 3.0 9.1

  35 to 44 years

17,276 13,577 1,893 1,261 3,710 1,005 746 160 48 469 5.8 5.5 8.5 3.8 12.6

  45 to 54 years

17,677 14,399 1,875 984 2,822 650 469 104 53 227 3.7 3.3 5.6 5.3 8.1

  55 to 64 years

14,025 11,791 1,218 734 1,520 439 328 76 21 86 3.1 2.8 6.3 2.8 5.7

  65 years and older

5,297 4,616 337 265 419 82 60 16 6 21 1.5 1.3 4.8 2.3 5.0

Women, 16 years and older

71,013 54,729 9,751 4,154 10,631 4,508 2,864 1,301 156 1,146 6.3 5.2 13.3 3.7 10.8

  16 to 19 years

1,731 1,308 231 53 332 225 155 52 5 62 13.0 11.9 22.4 18.7

  20 to 24 years

6,358 4,784 963 289 1,319 891 574 260 21 186 14.0 12.0 27.0 7.2 14.1

  25 to 34 years

15,599 11,558 2,411 954 2,724 1,238 719 420 40 304 7.9 6.2 17.4 4.2 11.1

  35 to 44 years

14,633 10,738 2,271 1,092 2,571 1,026 626 311 38 314 7.0 5.8 13.7 3.5 12.2

  45 to 54 years

15,687 12,255 2,084 933 2,156 592 395 146 33 176 3.8 3.2 7.0 3.6 8.1

  55 to 64 years

12,807 10,542 1,356 671 1,220 465 342 102 12 84 3.6 3.2 7.5 1.9 6.9

  65 years and older

4,197 3,543 435 161 308 71 52 10 6 20 1.7 1.5 2.3 4.0 6.4

1 Number below the poverty level as a percent of the total in the labor force for 27 weeks or more.

Note: Estimates for the race groups shown (White, Black or African American, and Asian) do not sum to totals because data are not presented for all races. People whose ethnicity is identified as Hispanic or Latino may be of any race. Dash represents zero, rounds to zero, or indicates that base is less than 80,000.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey (CPS), Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC).

Table 3. People in the labor force for 27 weeks or more: poverty status, by educational attainment, race, Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, and gender, 2015 (Numbers in thousands)
Educational attainment, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity Total Men Women Below poverty level Rate1
Total Men Women Total Men Women

Total, 16 years and older

152,230 81,218 71,013 8,560 4,053 4,508 5.6 5.0 6.3

 Less than a high school diploma

12,900 8,071 4,829 2,096 1,141 955 16.2 14.1 19.8

    Less than 1 year of high school

4,280 2,805 1,475 710 453 257 16.6 16.2 17.4

    1–3 years of high school

6,773 4,107 2,666 1,094 526 568 16.1 12.8 21.3

    4 years of high school, no diploma

1,847 1,159 687 292 162 130 15.8 14.0 19.0

 High school graduates, no college2

40,385 23,715 16,670 3,064 1,464 1,600 7.6 6.2 9.6

 Some college or associate's degree

44,115 21,741 22,374 2,469 951 1,519 5.6 4.4 6.8

    Some college, no degree

27,985 14,219 13,766 1,854 737 1,117 6.6 5.2 8.1

    Associate's degree

16,129 7,522 8,608 615 214 401 3.8 2.8 4.7

 Bachelor's degree and higher3

54,830 27,690 27,140 931 497 434 1.7 1.8 1.6

White, 16 years and older

119,878 65,149 54,729 5,746 2,882 2,864 4.8 4.4 5.2

 Less than a high school diploma

10,198 6,630 3,568 1,580 905 675 15.5 13.6 18.9

    Less than 1 year of high school

3,602 2,408 1,194 615 404 211 17.1 16.8 17.7

    1–3 years of high school

5,303 3,368 1,935 783 402 381 14.8 11.9 19.7

    4 years of high school, no diploma

1,293 854 439 182 99 83 14.1 11.6 18.9

 High school graduates, no college2

31,638 19,014 12,624 1,963 1,008 955 6.2 5.3 7.6

 Some college or associate's degree

34,485 17,335 17,149 1,580 652 928 4.6 3.8 5.4

    Some college, no degree

21,414 11,084 10,330 1,158 493 664 5.4 4.5 6.4

    Associate's degree

13,071 6,251 6,819 422 159 264 3.2 2.5 3.9

 Bachelor's degree and higher3

43,557 22,170 21,387 623 317 306 1.4 1.4 1.4

Black or African American, 16 years and older

18,502 8,751 9,751 2,073 772 1,301 11.2 8.8 13.3

 Less than a high school diploma

1,569 810 758 391 173 218 24.9 21.4 28.8

    Less than 1 year of high school

290 159 130 58 32 26 20.0 20.1 19.8

    1–3 years of high school

924 456 468 248 88 160 26.9 19.4 34.2

    4 years of high school, no diploma

355 196 159 85 53 32 23.9 27.0 20.1

 High school graduates, no college2

5,867 3,108 2,759 876 309 566 14.9 10.0 20.5

 Some college or associate's degree

6,262 2,733 3,529 638 184 454 10.2 6.7 12.9

    Some college, no degree

4,351 2,002 2,349 502 151 351 11.5 7.6 14.9

    Associate's degree

1,911 731 1,180 136 33 103 7.1 4.5 8.7

 Bachelor's degree and higher3

4,804 2,100 2,705 168 105 62 3.5 5.0 2.3

Asian, 16 years and older

8,965 4,810 4,154 364 209 156 4.1 4.3 3.7

 Less than a high school diploma

555 287 269 62 33 29 11.2 11.6 10.8

    Less than 1 year of high school

229 120 109 21 10 11 9.2 8.7 9.8

    1–3 years of high school

206 103 103 22 14 8 10.9 14.0 7.7

    4 years of high school, no diploma

121 64 57 19 8 10 15.6

 High school graduates, no college2

1,470 780 690 86 57 29 5.8 7.3 4.2

 Some college or associate's degree

1,670 828 842 105 60 46 6.3 7.2 5.4

    Some college, no degree

1,011 536 475 81 46 35 8.0 8.5 7.4

    Associate's degree

659 292 367 25 14 11 3.7 4.8 2.9

 Bachelor's degree and higher3

5,269 2,915 2,354 111 59 52 2.1 2.0 2.2

Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, 16 years and older

25,019 14,388 10,631 2,520 1,374 1,146 10.1 9.5 10.8

 Less than a high school diploma

6,389 4,216 2,173 1,190 714 475 18.6 16.9 21.9

    Less than 1 year of high school

3,213 2,163 1,050 567 369 198 17.7 17.1 18.9

    1–3 years of high school

2,524 1,626 898 503 271 232 19.9 16.7 25.8

    4 years of high school, no diploma

652 428 225 119 74 45 18.3 17.3 20.1

 High school graduates, no college2

7,895 4,824 3,071 766 415 351 9.7 8.6 11.4

 Some college or associate's degree

6,401 3,175 3,227 417 174 242 6.5 5.5 7.5

    Some college, no degree

4,377 2,219 2,158 309 137 171 7.1 6.2 7.9

    Associate's degree

2,024 955 1,069 108 37 71 5.3 3.9 6.7

Bachelor's degree and higher3

4,334 2,174 2,160 147 70 77 3.4 3.2 3.6

1 Number below the poverty level as a percentage of the total in the labor force for 27 weeks or more.

2 Includes people with a high school diploma or equivalent.

3 Includes people with bachelor’s, master’s, professional, and doctoral degrees.

Note: Estimates for the race groups shown (White, Black or African American, and Asian) do not sum to totals because data are not presented for all races. People whose ethnicity is identified as Hispanic or Latino may be of any race. Dash represents zero, rounds to zero, or indicates that base is less than 80,000.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey (CPS), Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC).

Table 4. People in the labor force for 27 weeks or more who worked during the year: poverty status, by occupation of longest job held, race, Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, and gender, 2015 (Numbers in thousands)
Occupation, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity Total Men Women Below poverty level Rate1
Total Men Women Total Men Women

Total, 16 years and older2

150,642 80,304 70,338 7,875 3,648 4,227 5.2 4.5 6.0

 Management, professional, and related occupations

59,025 28,329 30,696 1,049 425 624 1.8 1.5 2.0

   Management, business, and financial operations occupations

24,997 13,817 11,180 388 190 198 1.6 1.4 1.8

   Professional and related occupations

34,028 14,512 19,516 661 235 426 1.9 1.6 2.2

 Service occupations

25,848 11,361 14,488 2,994 1,073 1,920 11.6 9.4 13.3

 Sales and office occupations

33,386 12,884 20,503 1,825 579 1,247 5.5 4.5 6.1

   Sales and related occupations

15,743 7,998 7,744 1,054 320 734 6.7 4.0 9.5

   Office and administrative support occupations

17,644 4,885 12,758 771 259 512 4.4 5.3 4.0

 Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations

14,101 13,434 666 966 909 57 6.9 6.8 8.6

   Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

1,270 969 301 179 137 42 14.1 14.2 13.9

   Construction and extraction occupations

7,862 7,651 211 606 595 11 7.7 7.8 5.4

   Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

4,968 4,815 154 181 177 4 3.6 3.7 2.5

 Production, transportation, and material-moving occupations

18,183 14,216 3,967 1,041 662 379 5.7 4.7 9.6

   Production occupations

8,829 6,352 2,477 400 206 193 4.5 3.2 7.8

   Transportation and material-moving occupations

9,354 7,864 1,490 641 455 186 6.9 5.8 12.5

White, 16 years and older2

118,917 64,575 54,342 5,394 2,662 2,732 4.5 4.1 5.0

 Management, professional, and related occupations

47,693 23,245 24,448 713 307 406 1.5 1.3 1.7

   Management, business, and financial operations occupations

20,914 11,897 9,016 299 148 151 1.4 1.2 1.7

   Professional and related occupations

26,779 11,348 15,432 414 159 254 1.5 1.4 1.6

 Service occupations

18,830 8,470 10,360 1,944 740 1,204 10.3 8.7 11.6

 Sales and office occupations

26,308 10,226 16,082 1,205 383 822 4.6 3.7 5.1

   Sales and related occupations

12,628 6,640 5,988 733 227 507 5.8 3.4 8.5

   Office and administrative support occupations

13,680 3,586 10,094 472 156 316 3.5 4.4 3.1

 Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations

12,168 11,642 526 827 777 50 6.8 6.7 9.5

   Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

1,120 863 258 166 129 37 14.8 15.0 14.2

   Construction and extraction occupations

6,835 6,677 158 521 511 10 7.6 7.6 6.4

   Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

4,212 4,102 110 141 138 3 3.3 3.4 2.8

 Production, transportation, and material-moving occupations

13,839 10,926 2,913 704 454 250 5.1 4.2 8.6

   Production occupations

6,904 5,096 1,808 293 170 123 4.2 3.3 6.8

   Transportation and material-moving occupations

6,935 5,830 1,105 412 285 127 5.9 4.9 11.5

Black or African American, 16 years and older2

18,004 8,476 9,527 1,783 620 1,162 9.9 7.3 12.2

 Management, professional, and related occupations

5,313 1,971 3,342 212 55 157 4.0 2.8 4.7

   Management, business, and financial operations occupations

2,030 849 1,182 44 14 29 2.1 1.7 2.5

   Professional and related occupations

3,283 1,122 2,160 169 41 128 5.1 3.7 5.9

 Service occupations

4,439 1,729 2,710 789 210 579 17.8 12.1 21.4

 Sales and office occupations

4,260 1,534 2,726 440 115 325 10.3 7.5 11.9

   Sales and related occupations

1,696 700 995 224 39 186 13.2 5.5 18.7

   Office and administrative support occupations

2,564 833 1,731 215 76 139 8.4 9.2 8.0

 Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations

1,092 1,018 75 86 83 3 7.9 8.2

   Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

88 61 27 8 5 2 8.6

   Construction and extraction occupations

592 571 20 55 55 1 9.4 9.6

   Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

412 385 27 23 23 5.6 5.9

 Production, transportation, and material-moving occupations

2,891 2,221 670 256 157 99 8.8 7.1 14.8

   Production occupations

1,120 730 390 79 23 56 7.1 3.1 14.4

   Transportation and material-moving occupations

1,771 1,490 281 177 134 43 10.0 9.0 15.2

Asian, 16 years and older2

8,897 4,773 4,124 346 192 154 3.9 4.0 3.7

 Management, professional, and related occupations

4,669 2,537 2,132 84 47 36 1.8 1.9 1.7

   Management, business, and financial operations occupations

1,526 820 706 39 25 13 2.5 3.1 1.9

   Professional and related occupations

3,144 1,717 1,427 45 22 23 1.4 1.3 1.6

 Service occupations

1,419 597 822 105 47 58 7.4 7.9 7.0

 Sales and office occupations

1,696 774 922 94 52 42 5.5 6.7 4.5

   Sales and related occupations

867 464 403 51 33 18 5.9 7.1 4.4

   Office and administrative support occupations

830 310 519 43 19 24 5.2 6.0 4.6

 Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations

263 235 28 14 13 1 5.2 5.5

   Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

17 9 8 0 0

   Construction and extraction occupations

110 100 10 7 7 6.0 6.6

   Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

136 125 10 7 6 1 4.9 4.6

 Production, transportation, and material-moving occupations

842 625 218 50 33 17 5.9 5.2 7.9

   Production occupations

498 325 174 16 10 6 3.2 3.0 3.7

   Transportation and material-moving occupations

344 300 44 34 23 11 9.8 7.6

Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, 16 years and older2

24,768 14,254 10,513 2,400 1,307 1,093 9.7 9.2 10.4

 Management, professional, and related occupations

5,230 2,452 2,778 165 86 80 3.2 3.5 2.9

   Management, business, and financial operations occupations

2,459 1,315 1,143 79 50 29 3.2 3.8 2.5

   Professional and related occupations

2,772 1,137 1,635 86 36 50 3.1 3.2 3.1

 Service occupations

6,323 2,994 3,329 941 383 557 14.9 12.8 16.7

 Sales and office occupations

5,116 2,022 3,094 415 128 287 8.1 6.3 9.3

   Sales and related occupations

2,349 1,113 1,236 229 63 166 9.8 5.7 13.4

   Office and administrative support occupations

2,767 909 1,858 186 65 121 6.7 7.1 6.5

 Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations

4,116 3,852 264 527 485 42 12.8 12.6 15.9

   Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

614 449 165 129 94 35 21.0 20.9 21.3

   Construction and extraction occupations

2,580 2,511 68 337 331 7 13.1 13.2

   Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

922 892 31 60 60 6.5 6.8

 Production, transportation, and material-moving occupations

3,973 2,931 1,042 352 225 127 8.9 7.7 12.2

   Production occupations

1,997 1,298 699 155 83 72 7.8 6.4 10.4

   Transportation and material-moving occupations

1,976 1,633 343 197 143 54 10.0 8.7 15.8

1 Number below the poverty level as a percentage of the total in the labor force for 27 weeks or more who worked during the year.

2 Estimates for the occupational groups do not sum to totals because data include the long-term unemployed with no previous work experience and a small number of people whose last job was in the Armed Forces.

Note: Estimates for the race groups shown (White, Black or African American, and Asian) do not sum to totals because data are not presented for all races. People whose ethnicity is identified as Hispanic or Latino may be of any race. Dash represents zero, rounds to zero, or indicates that base is less than 80,000.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey (CPS), Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC).

Table 5. Primary families: poverty status, presence of related children, and work experience of family members in the labor force for 27 weeks or more, 2015 (Numbers in thousands)
Characteristic Total families At or above poverty level Below poverty level Rate1

Total primary families

67,193 62,586 4,607 6.9

  With related children under 18 years

34,948 31,052 3,896 11.1

  Without children

32,245 31,534 711 2.2

  With one member in the labor force

29,232 25,247 3,985 13.6

  With two or more members in the labor force

37,960 37,339 621 1.6

    With two members

31,654 31,095 560 1.8

    With three or more members

6,306 6,244 62 1.0

Married-couple families2

49,515 47,668 1,847 3.7

  With related children under 18 years

24,230 22,729 1,500 6.2

  Without children

25,285 24,939 347 1.4

  With one member in the labor force

17,345 15,877 1,468 8.5

    Husband

12,240 11,106 1,135 9.3

    Wife

4,299 4,023 276 6.4

    Relative

806 749 57 7.1

  With two or more members in the labor force

32,170 31,791 379 1.2

    With two members

27,234 26,889 345 1.3

    With three or more members

4,936 4,901 35 0.7

Families maintained by women3

12,287 10,042 2,245 18.3

  With related children under 18 years

7,988 6,011 1,978 24.8

  Without children

4,299 4,032 267 6.2

  With one member in the labor force

8,602 6,544 2,058 23.9

    Householder

6,932 5,205 1,727 24.9

    Relative

1,670 1,339 331 19.8

  With two or more members in the labor force

3,686 3,498 187 5.1

Families maintained by men3

5,390 4,875 515 9.6

  With related children under 18 years

2,730 2,312 418 15.3

  Without children

2,660 2,563 97 3.6

  With one member in the labor force

3,285 2,826 460 14.0

    Householder

2,650 2,286 365 13.8

    Relative

635 540 95 15.0

  With two or more members in the labor force

2,105 2,050 55 2.6

1 Number below the poverty level as a percentage of the total in the labor force for 27 weeks or more who worked during the year.

2 Refers to opposite-sex married-couple families only.

3 No opposite-sex spouse present.

Note: Data relate to primary families with at least one member in the labor force for 27 weeks or more.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey (CPS), Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC).

Table 6. People in families and unrelated individuals: poverty status and work experience, 2015 (Numbers in thousands)
Poverty status and work experience Total people In married-couple families1 In families maintained by women2 In families maintained by men2 Unrelated individuals
Husbands Wives Related children under 18 years Other relatives Householder Related children under 18 years Other relatives Householder Related children under 18 years Other relatives

Total

 

All people

252,766 59,618 60,205 5,484 21,742 15,595 2,288 14,416 6,265 711 6,873 59,568

  With labor force activity

165,495 45,164 37,268 1,368 13,651 10,897 534 8,744 4,807 153 4,447 38,462

    1 to 26 weeks

13,265 1,640 2,791 776 2,646 751 297 1,070 253 68 464 2,509

    27 weeks or more

152,230 43,523 34,477 592 11,005 10,145 237 7,674 4,554 85 3,984 35,953

  With no labor force activity

87,271 14,454 22,937 4,116 8,091 4,698 1,754 5,672 1,458 558 2,426 21,106

At or above poverty level

 

All people

222,699 56,411 56,960 5,052 20,754 11,196 1,539 11,957 5,339 571 6,227 46,693

  With labor force activity

154,515 43,537 36,479 1,337 13,342 8,579 410 7,887 4,317 145 4,254 34,228

    1 to 26 weeks

10,846 1,511 2,584 758 2,554 314 208 827 181 63 434 1,412

    27 weeks or more

143,670 42,027 33,895 579 10,788 8,265 201 7,060 4,136 82 3,821 32,817

   With no labor force activity

68,183 12,874 20,481 3,715 7,412 2,617 1,130 4,070 1,022 426 1,972 12,464

Below poverty level

 

All people

30,067 3,207 3,245 432 987 4,399 749 2,460 926 140 647 12,876

   With labor force activity

10,980 1,626 789 32 309 2,317 125 858 490 8 193 4,234

     1 to 26 weeks

2,420 130 208 19 91 437 89 243 72 5 30 1,097

     27 weeks or more

8,560 1,497 581 13 218 1,880 35 615 418 4 163 3,137

   With no labor force activity

19,087 1,581 2,456 401 679 2,082 624 1,602 435 132 454 8,642

Rate3

 

All people

11.9 5.4 5.4 7.9 4.5 28.2 32.7 17.1 14.8 19.7 9.4 21.6

   With labor force activity

6.6 3.6 2.1 2.3 2.3 21.3 23.3 9.8 10.2 5.4 4.3 11.0

     1 to 26 weeks

18.2 7.9 7.4 2.4 3.4 58.2 30.0 22.7 28.5 - 6.5 43.7

     27 weeks or more

5.6 3.4 1.7 2.2 2.0 18.5 15.0 8.0 9.2 4.3 4.1 8.7

   With no labor force activity

21.9 10.9 10.7 9.7 8.4 44.3 35.6 28.2 29.9 23.6 18.7 40.9

1 Refers to opposite-sex married-couple families only.

2 No opposite-sex spouse present.

3 Number below the poverty level as a percentage of the total.

Note: Dash represents zero, rounds to zero, or indicates that base is less than 80,000.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey (CPS), Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC).

Table 7. Unrelated individuals in the labor force for 27 weeks or more: poverty status, by age, gender, race, Hispanic or Latino ethnicity and living arrangement, 2015 (Numbers in thousands)
Characteristic Total At or above poverty level Below poverty level Rate1

Age and gender

 

Total unrelated individuals

35,953 32,817 3,137 8.7

 16 to 19 years

373 200 173 46.3

 20 to 24 years

4,182 3,304 878 21.0

 25 to 64 years

28,729 26,705 2,024 7.0

 65 years and older

2,669 2,607 62 2.3

 Men

19,700 18,075 1,625 8.2

 Women

16,253 14,741 1,512 9.3

Race and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity

 

White

28,058 25,907 2,151 7.7

    Men

15,481 14,409 1,072 6.9

    Women

12,577 11,498 1,080 8.6

 Black or African American

5,126 4,416 710 13.9

    Men

2,710 2,330 380 14.0

    Women

2,416 2,086 330 13.7

 Asian

1,533 1,408 125 8.2

    Men

822 747 75 9.1

    Women

711 661 51 7.1

Hispanic or Latino, ethnicity

4,887 4,364 523 10.7

    Men

3,101 2,818 283 9.1

    Women

1,786 1,546 240 13.4

Living arrangement

 

 Living alone

18,469 17,285 1,184 6.4

 Living with others

17,484 15,531 1,953 11.2

1 Number below the poverty level as a percentage of the total in the labor force for 27 weeks or more.

Note: Estimates for the race groups shown (White, Black or African American, and Asian) do not sum to totals because data are not presented for all races. People whose ethnicity is identified as Hispanic or Latino may be of any race.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey (CPS), Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC).

Table 8. People in the labor force for 27 weeks or more: poverty status and labor market problems of full-time wage and salary workers, 2015 (Numbers in thousands)
Labor market problems Total At or above poverty level Below poverty level Rate1

Total, full-time wage and salary workers

118,203 114,450 3,753 3.2

No unemployment, involuntary part-time employment, or low earnings2

99,264 98,579 685 0.7

Workers experiencing one labor market problem

 

   Unemployment only

5,259 4,891 368 7.0

  Involuntary part-time employment only

2,538 2,478 60 2.3

   Low earnings only

7,697 6,037 1,660 21.6

Workers experiencing multiple labor market problems

 

   Unemployment and involuntary part-time employment

993 911 82 8.2

   Unemployment and low earnings

1,357 795 561 41.4

  Involuntary part-time employment and low earnings

728 539 189 26.0

   Unemployment, involuntary part-time employment, and low earnings

368 220 148 40.3

Workers experiencing each labor market problem

 

   Unemployment (alone or with other problems)

7,976 6,817 1,159 14.5

   Involuntary part-time employment (alone or with other problems)

4,626 4,147 479 10.3

   Low earnings (alone or with other problems)

10,149 7,591 2,558 25.2

1 Number below the poverty level as a percentage of the total in the labor force for 27 weeks or more.

2 The low-earnings threshold in 2015 was $348.85 per week.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey (CPS), Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC).

Technical Notes

The data presented in this report were collected in the Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) to the Current Population Survey (CPS). Conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the CPS is a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 eligible households. Data from the CPS are used to obtain monthly estimates of the nation’s employment and unemployment levels. The ASEC, conducted in the months of February through April, includes questions about work activity and income during the previous calendar year. For instance, data collected in 2016 are for the 2015 calendar year.

The estimates presented in this report are based on a sample and, consequently, may differ from estimates that would have been obtained from a complete count using the same questionnaire and procedures. Sampling variability may be relatively large in cases where the numbers are small. Thus, both small estimates and small differences between estimates should be interpreted with caution. For a detailed explanation of the ASEC supplement to the CPS, its sampling variability, more extensive definitions than those provided here, and additional information about income and poverty measures, see “Income and poverty in the United States: 2015,” Current Population Reports, P60-256 (U.S. Census Bureau, September 2016), https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2016/demo/p60-256.pdf.

Material in this report is in the public domain and may be reproduced without permission.

This information presented is available to sensory-impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (202) 691-5200; Federal Relay Service: (800) 877-8339.

For more information on the data provided in this report, contact the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Division of Labor Force Statistics. Email: cpsinfo@bls.gov; Telephone: (202) 691-6378.

Concepts and definitions

Poverty classification. Poverty statistics presented in this report are based on definitions developed by the Social Security Administration in 1964 and revised by federal interagency committees in 1969 and 1981. These definitions originally were based on the Department of Agriculture’s Economy Food Plan and reflected the different consumption requirements of families on the basis of factors such as family size and the number of children under 18 years of age.

The actual poverty thresholds vary with the makeup of the family. In 2015, the weighted average poverty threshold for a family of four was $24,257; for a family of nine or more people, the threshold was $49,177; and for one person (see Unrelated individuals), it was $12,082. Poverty thresholds are updated each year to reflect changes in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U). Thresholds do not vary geographically. (For more information, see “Income and poverty in the United States: 2015.")

Low earnings. The low-earnings level, as first developed in 1987, represented the average of the real value of the minimum wage between 1967 and 1987 for a 40-hour workweek. The year 1967 was chosen as the base year because that was the first year in which minimum-wage legislation covered essentially the same broad group of workers that currently is covered. The low-earnings level has been adjusted each year since then in accordance with the CPI-U, so the measure maintains the same real value that it held in 1987. In 2015, the low-earnings threshold was $348.85 per week. For a complete definition, see pp. 5–8 of “A profile of the working poor,” Monthly Labor Review, https://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/1989/10/art1full.pdf.

Income. Data on income are limited to money income—before personal income taxes and payroll deductions—received in the calendar year preceding the CPS supplement. Data on income do not include the value of noncash benefits, such as food stamps, Medicare, Medicaid, public housing, and employer-provided benefits. For a complete definition of income, see “Income and poverty in the United States: 2015.”

Labor force. People in the labor force are those who worked or looked for work sometime during the calendar year. The number of weeks in the labor force is accumulated over the entire year. The focus in this report is on people who were in the labor force for 27 weeks or more.

Working poor. The working poor are people who spent at least 27 weeks in the labor force (that is, working or looking for work) but whose incomes still fell below the official poverty level.

Working-poor rate. This rate is the number of individuals in the labor force for at least 27 weeks whose incomes still fell below the official poverty level, as a percentage of all people who were in the labor force for at least 27 weeks during the calendar year.

Involuntary part-time workers. These are people who, during at least 1 week of the year, worked fewer than 35 hours because of slack work or unfavorable business conditions or because they could not find full-time work. The number of weeks of involuntary part-time work is accumulated over the year.

Occupation. This term refers to the job in which a person worked the most weeks during the calendar year.

Unemployed. Unemployed people are those who looked for work while not employed or those who were on layoff from a job and were expecting to be recalled to that job. The number of weeks unemployed is accumulated over the entire year.

Family. A family is defined as a group of two or more people residing together who are related by birth, marriage, or adoption. The count of families used in this report includes only primary families. A primary family consists of the reference person (the householder) and all people living in the household who are related to the reference person. Families are classified either as married-couple families or as those maintained by men or women without spouses present. Family status is determined at the time of the survey interview and, thus, may be different from that of the previous year.

Unrelated individuals. These are people who are not living with anyone related to them by birth, marriage, or adoption. Such individuals may live alone, reside in a nonrelated family household, or live in group quarters with other unrelated individuals.

Related children. Related children are children under age 18 (including sons, daughters, stepchildren, and adopted children) of the husband, wife, or person maintaining the family, as well as other children related to the householder by birth, marriage, or adoption.

Race. White, Black or African American, and Asian are categories used to describe the race of people. People in these categories are those who selected that race group only. Data for the two remaining race categories—American Indian and Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander—and for people who selected more than one race category are included in totals, but are not shown separately because the number of survey respondents is too small to develop estimates of sufficient quality for publication. In the enumeration process, race is determined by the household respondent.

Hispanic or Latino ethnicity. This term refers to people who identified themselves in the CPS enumeration process as being of Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish ethnicity. People whose ethnicity is identified as Hispanic or Latino may be of any race.