U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

A Profile of the Working Poor, 2015

April 2017 | Report 1068

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:

Table A. Poverty status of people and primary families in the labor force for 27 weeks or more, 2007–15 (Numbers in thousands)
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).

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)
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 forceTotal in labor force27 weeks or more in labor force
Total50 to 52 weeks
 
 
 
 

Total

 

Total in the labor force

165,495152,230138,933

 Did not work during the year

3,1671,5881,306

 Worked during the year

162,329150,642137,627

  Usual full-time workers

129,254124,652117,069

  Usual part-time workers

33,07525,99020,558

   Involuntary part-time workers

7,6666,6615,626

  Voluntary part-time workers

25,40919,32914,932

At or above poverty level

 

Total in the labor force

154,515143,670131,910

 Did not work during the year

1,969903752

 Worked during the year

152,546142,767131,158

  Usual full-time workers

124,241120,431113,484

  Usual part-time workers

28,30522,33617,675

   Involuntary part-time workers

5,7725,0144,232

  Voluntary part-time workers

22,53317,32213,443

Below poverty level

 

Total in the labor force

10,9808,5607,023

 Did not work during the year

1,197685554

 Worked during the year

9,7837,8756,469

  Usual full-time workers

5,0134,2213,586

  Usual part-time workers

4,7703,6542,884

   Involuntary part-time workers

1,8941,6471,394

  Voluntary part-time workers

2,8762,0081,489

Rate1

 

Total in the labor force

6.65.65.1

 Did not work during the year

37.843.142.4

 Worked during the year

6.05.24.7

  Usual full-time workers

3.93.43.1

  Usual part-time workers

14.414.114.0

   Involuntary part-time workers

24.724.724.8

  Voluntary part-time workers

11.310.410.0

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).

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)
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 genderTotalBelow poverty levelRate1
TotalWhiteBlack or African AmericanAsianHispanic or LatinoTotalWhiteBlack or African AmericanAsianHispanic or LatinoTotalWhiteBlack or African AmericanAsianHispanic or Latino
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Total, 16 years and older

152,230119,87818,5028,96525,0198,5605,7462,0733642,5205.64.811.24.110.1

  16 to 19 years

3,4362,63845810466837224190129610.89.119.612.014.4

  20 to 24 years

13,1879,9901,9485612,9131,6091,0434215835812.210.421.610.412.3

  25 to 34 years

34,00825,7884,6282,1976,7122,2511,443636776676.65.613.73.59.9

  35 to 44 years

31,90924,3154,1632,3546,2812,0311,372472867846.45.611.33.712.5

  45 to 54 years

33,36426,6543,9591,9174,9781,242865250864033.73.26.34.58.1

  55 to 64 years

26,83222,3332,5741,4052,740904671178331713.43.06.92.46.2

  65 years and older

9,4958,1597724267271531122612411.61.43.42.95.6

Men, 16 years and older

81,21865,1498,7514,81014,3884,0532,8827722091,3745.04.48.84.39.5

  16 to 19 years

1,7041,3302265133614785388348.66.416.710.1

  20 to 24 years

6,8295,2069852721,5947174701613717210.59.016.413.710.8

  25 to 34 years

18,40814,2302,2161,2433,9881,013725216373645.55.19.73.09.1

  35 to 44 years

17,27613,5771,8931,2613,7101,005746160484695.85.58.53.812.6

  45 to 54 years

17,67714,3991,8759842,822650469104532273.73.35.65.38.1

  55 to 64 years

14,02511,7911,2187341,5204393287621863.12.86.32.85.7

  65 years and older

5,2974,6163372654198260166211.51.34.82.35.0

Women, 16 years and older

71,01354,7299,7514,15410,6314,5082,8641,3011561,1466.35.213.33.710.8

  16 to 19 years

1,7311,308231533322251555256213.011.922.418.7

  20 to 24 years

6,3584,7849632891,3198915742602118614.012.027.07.214.1

  25 to 34 years

15,59911,5582,4119542,7241,238719420403047.96.217.44.211.1

  35 to 44 years

14,63310,7382,2711,0922,5711,026626311383147.05.813.73.512.2

  45 to 54 years

15,68712,2552,0849332,156592395146331763.83.27.03.68.1

  55 to 64 years

12,80710,5421,3566711,22046534210212843.63.27.51.96.9

  65 years and older

4,1973,5434351613087152106201.71.52.34.06.4

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).

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)
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 ethnicityTotalMenWomenBelow poverty levelRate1
TotalMenWomenTotalMenWomen
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Total, 16 years and older

152,23081,21871,0138,5604,0534,5085.65.06.3

 Less than a high school diploma

12,9008,0714,8292,0961,14195516.214.119.8

    Less than 1 year of high school

4,2802,8051,47571045325716.616.217.4

    1–3 years of high school

6,7734,1072,6661,09452656816.112.821.3

    4 years of high school, no diploma

1,8471,15968729216213015.814.019.0

 High school graduates, no college2

40,38523,71516,6703,0641,4641,6007.66.29.6

 Some college or associate's degree

44,11521,74122,3742,4699511,5195.64.46.8

    Some college, no degree

27,98514,21913,7661,8547371,1176.65.28.1

    Associate's degree

16,1297,5228,6086152144013.82.84.7

 Bachelor's degree and higher3

54,83027,69027,1409314974341.71.81.6

White, 16 years and older

119,87865,14954,7295,7462,8822,8644.84.45.2

 Less than a high school diploma

10,1986,6303,5681,58090567515.513.618.9

    Less than 1 year of high school

3,6022,4081,19461540421117.116.817.7

    1–3 years of high school

5,3033,3681,93578340238114.811.919.7

    4 years of high school, no diploma

1,293854439182998314.111.618.9

 High school graduates, no college2

31,63819,01412,6241,9631,0089556.25.37.6

 Some college or associate's degree

34,48517,33517,1491,5806529284.63.85.4

    Some college, no degree

21,41411,08410,3301,1584936645.44.56.4

    Associate's degree

13,0716,2516,8194221592643.22.53.9

 Bachelor's degree and higher3

43,55722,17021,3876233173061.41.41.4

Black or African American, 16 years and older

18,5028,7519,7512,0737721,30111.28.813.3

 Less than a high school diploma

1,56981075839117321824.921.428.8

    Less than 1 year of high school

29015913058322620.020.119.8

    1–3 years of high school

9244564682488816026.919.434.2

    4 years of high school, no diploma

35519615985533223.927.020.1

 High school graduates, no college2

5,8673,1082,75987630956614.910.020.5

 Some college or associate's degree

6,2622,7333,52963818445410.26.712.9

    Some college, no degree

4,3512,0022,34950215135111.57.614.9

    Associate's degree

1,9117311,180136331037.14.58.7

 Bachelor's degree and higher3

4,8042,1002,705168105623.55.02.3

Asian, 16 years and older

8,9654,8104,1543642091564.14.33.7

 Less than a high school diploma

55528726962332911.211.610.8

    Less than 1 year of high school

2291201092110119.28.79.8

    1–3 years of high school

2061031032214810.914.07.7

    4 years of high school, no diploma

12164571981015.6

 High school graduates, no college2

1,4707806908657295.87.34.2

 Some college or associate's degree

1,67082884210560466.37.25.4

    Some college, no degree

1,0115364758146358.08.57.4

    Associate's degree

6592923672514113.74.82.9

 Bachelor's degree and higher3

5,2692,9152,35411159522.12.02.2

Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, 16 years and older

25,01914,38810,6312,5201,3741,14610.19.510.8

 Less than a high school diploma

6,3894,2162,1731,19071447518.616.921.9

    Less than 1 year of high school

3,2132,1631,05056736919817.717.118.9

    1–3 years of high school

2,5241,62689850327123219.916.725.8

    4 years of high school, no diploma

652428225119744518.317.320.1

 High school graduates, no college2

7,8954,8243,0717664153519.78.611.4

 Some college or associate's degree

6,4013,1753,2274171742426.55.57.5

    Some college, no degree

4,3772,2192,1583091371717.16.27.9

    Associate's degree

2,0249551,06910837715.33.96.7

Bachelor's degree and higher3

4,3342,1742,16014770773.43.23.6

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).

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)
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 ethnicityTotalMenWomenBelow poverty levelRate1
TotalMenWomenTotalMenWomen
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Total, 16 years and older2

150,64280,30470,3387,8753,6484,2275.24.56.0

 Management, professional, and related occupations

59,02528,32930,6961,0494256241.81.52.0

   Management, business, and financial operations occupations

24,99713,81711,1803881901981.61.41.8

   Professional and related occupations

34,02814,51219,5166612354261.91.62.2

 Service occupations

25,84811,36114,4882,9941,0731,92011.69.413.3

 Sales and office occupations

33,38612,88420,5031,8255791,2475.54.56.1

   Sales and related occupations

15,7437,9987,7441,0543207346.74.09.5

   Office and administrative support occupations

17,6444,88512,7587712595124.45.34.0

 Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations

14,10113,434666966909576.96.88.6

   Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

1,2709693011791374214.114.213.9

   Construction and extraction occupations

7,8627,651211606595117.77.85.4

   Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

4,9684,81515418117743.63.72.5

 Production, transportation, and material-moving occupations

18,18314,2163,9671,0416623795.74.79.6

   Production occupations

8,8296,3522,4774002061934.53.27.8

   Transportation and material-moving occupations

9,3547,8641,4906414551866.95.812.5

White, 16 years and older2

118,91764,57554,3425,3942,6622,7324.54.15.0

 Management, professional, and related occupations

47,69323,24524,4487133074061.51.31.7

   Management, business, and financial operations occupations

20,91411,8979,0162991481511.41.21.7

   Professional and related occupations

26,77911,34815,4324141592541.51.41.6

 Service occupations

18,8308,47010,3601,9447401,20410.38.711.6

 Sales and office occupations

26,30810,22616,0821,2053838224.63.75.1

   Sales and related occupations

12,6286,6405,9887332275075.83.48.5

   Office and administrative support occupations

13,6803,58610,0944721563163.54.43.1

 Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations

12,16811,642526827777506.86.79.5

   Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

1,1208632581661293714.815.014.2

   Construction and extraction occupations

6,8356,677158521511107.67.66.4

   Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

4,2124,10211014113833.33.42.8

 Production, transportation, and material-moving occupations

13,83910,9262,9137044542505.14.28.6

   Production occupations

6,9045,0961,8082931701234.23.36.8

   Transportation and material-moving occupations

6,9355,8301,1054122851275.94.911.5

Black or African American, 16 years and older2

18,0048,4769,5271,7836201,1629.97.312.2

 Management, professional, and related occupations

5,3131,9713,342212551574.02.84.7

   Management, business, and financial operations occupations

2,0308491,1824414292.11.72.5

   Professional and related occupations

3,2831,1222,160169411285.13.75.9

 Service occupations

4,4391,7292,71078921057917.812.121.4

 Sales and office occupations

4,2601,5342,72644011532510.37.511.9

   Sales and related occupations

1,6967009952243918613.25.518.7

   Office and administrative support occupations

2,5648331,731215761398.49.28.0

 Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations

1,0921,01875868337.98.2

   Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

8861278528.6

   Construction and extraction occupations

59257120555519.49.6

   Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

4123852723235.65.9

 Production, transportation, and material-moving occupations

2,8912,221670256157998.87.114.8

   Production occupations

1,1207303907923567.13.114.4

   Transportation and material-moving occupations

1,7711,4902811771344310.09.015.2

Asian, 16 years and older2

8,8974,7734,1243461921543.94.03.7

 Management, professional, and related occupations

4,6692,5372,1328447361.81.91.7

   Management, business, and financial operations occupations

1,5268207063925132.53.11.9

   Professional and related occupations

3,1441,7171,4274522231.41.31.6

 Service occupations

1,41959782210547587.47.97.0

 Sales and office occupations

1,6967749229452425.56.74.5

   Sales and related occupations

8674644035133185.97.14.4

   Office and administrative support occupations

8303105194319245.26.04.6

 Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations

26323528141315.25.5

   Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

179800

   Construction and extraction occupations

11010010776.06.6

   Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

136125107614.94.6

 Production, transportation, and material-moving occupations

8426252185033175.95.27.9

   Production occupations

498325174161063.23.03.7

   Transportation and material-moving occupations

344300443423119.87.6

Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, 16 years and older2

24,76814,25410,5132,4001,3071,0939.79.210.4

 Management, professional, and related occupations

5,2302,4522,77816586803.23.52.9

   Management, business, and financial operations occupations

2,4591,3151,1437950293.23.82.5

   Professional and related occupations

2,7721,1371,6358636503.13.23.1

 Service occupations

6,3232,9943,32994138355714.912.816.7

 Sales and office occupations

5,1162,0223,0944151282878.16.39.3

   Sales and related occupations

2,3491,1131,236229631669.85.713.4

   Office and administrative support occupations

2,7679091,858186651216.77.16.5

 Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations

4,1163,8522645274854212.812.615.9

   Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

614449165129943521.020.921.3

   Construction and extraction occupations

2,5802,51168337331713.113.2

   Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

9228923160606.56.8

 Production, transportation, and material-moving occupations

3,9732,9311,0423522251278.97.712.2

   Production occupations

1,9971,29869915583727.86.410.4

   Transportation and material-moving occupations

1,9761,6333431971435410.08.715.8

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).

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)
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)
CharacteristicTotal familiesAt or above poverty levelBelow poverty levelRate1
 
 
 
 
 

Total primary families

67,19362,5864,6076.9

  With related children under 18 years

34,94831,0523,89611.1

  Without children

32,24531,5347112.2

  With one member in the labor force

29,23225,2473,98513.6

  With two or more members in the labor force

37,96037,3396211.6

    With two members

31,65431,0955601.8

    With three or more members

6,3066,244621.0

Married-couple families2

49,51547,6681,8473.7

  With related children under 18 years

24,23022,7291,5006.2

  Without children

25,28524,9393471.4

  With one member in the labor force

17,34515,8771,4688.5

    Husband

12,24011,1061,1359.3

    Wife

4,2994,0232766.4

    Relative

806749577.1

  With two or more members in the labor force

32,17031,7913791.2

    With two members

27,23426,8893451.3

    With three or more members

4,9364,901350.7

Families maintained by women3

12,28710,0422,24518.3

  With related children under 18 years

7,9886,0111,97824.8

  Without children

4,2994,0322676.2

  With one member in the labor force

8,6026,5442,05823.9

    Householder

6,9325,2051,72724.9

    Relative

1,6701,33933119.8

  With two or more members in the labor force

3,6863,4981875.1

Families maintained by men3

5,3904,8755159.6

  With related children under 18 years

2,7302,31241815.3

  Without children

2,6602,563973.6

  With one member in the labor force

3,2852,82646014.0

    Householder

2,6502,28636513.8

    Relative

6355409515.0

  With two or more members in the labor force

2,1052,050552.6

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).

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)
Table 6. People in families and unrelated individuals: poverty status and work experience, 2015 (Numbers in thousands)
Poverty status and work experienceTotal peopleIn married-couple families1In families maintained by women2In families maintained by men2Unrelated individuals
HusbandsWivesRelated children under 18 yearsOther relativesHouseholderRelated children under 18 yearsOther relativesHouseholderRelated children under 18 yearsOther relatives
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Total

 

All people

252,76659,61860,2055,48421,74215,5952,28814,4166,2657116,87359,568

  With labor force activity

165,49545,16437,2681,36813,65110,8975348,7444,8071534,44738,462

    1 to 26 weeks

13,2651,6402,7917762,6467512971,070253684642,509

    27 weeks or more

152,23043,52334,47759211,00510,1452377,6744,554853,98435,953

  With no labor force activity

87,27114,45422,9374,1168,0914,6981,7545,6721,4585582,42621,106

At or above poverty level

 

All people

222,69956,41156,9605,05220,75411,1961,53911,9575,3395716,22746,693

  With labor force activity

154,51543,53736,4791,33713,3428,5794107,8874,3171454,25434,228

    1 to 26 weeks

10,8461,5112,5847582,554314208827181634341,412

    27 weeks or more

143,67042,02733,89557910,7888,2652017,0604,136823,82132,817

   With no labor force activity

68,18312,87420,4813,7157,4122,6171,1304,0701,0224261,97212,464

Below poverty level

 

All people

30,0673,2073,2454329874,3997492,46092614064712,876

   With labor force activity

10,9801,626789323092,31712585849081934,234

     1 to 26 weeks

2,420130208199143789243725301,097

     27 weeks or more

8,5601,497581132181,8803561541841633,137

   With no labor force activity

19,0871,5812,4564016792,0826241,6024351324548,642

Rate3

 

All people

11.95.45.47.94.528.232.717.114.819.79.421.6

   With labor force activity

6.63.62.12.32.321.323.39.810.25.44.311.0

     1 to 26 weeks

18.27.97.42.43.458.230.022.728.5-6.543.7

     27 weeks or more

5.63.41.72.22.018.515.08.09.24.34.18.7

   With no labor force activity

21.910.910.79.78.444.335.628.229.923.618.740.9

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).

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)
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)
CharacteristicTotalAt or above poverty levelBelow poverty levelRate1
 
 
 
 
 

Age and gender

 

Total unrelated individuals

35,95332,8173,1378.7

 16 to 19 years

37320017346.3

 20 to 24 years

4,1823,30487821.0

 25 to 64 years

28,72926,7052,0247.0

 65 years and older

2,6692,607622.3

 Men

19,70018,0751,6258.2

 Women

16,25314,7411,5129.3

Race and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity

 

White

28,05825,9072,1517.7

    Men

15,48114,4091,0726.9

    Women

12,57711,4981,0808.6

 Black or African American

5,1264,41671013.9

    Men

2,7102,33038014.0

    Women

2,4162,08633013.7

 Asian

1,5331,4081258.2

    Men

822747759.1

    Women

711661517.1

Hispanic or Latino, ethnicity

4,8874,36452310.7

    Men

3,1012,8182839.1

    Women

1,7861,54624013.4

Living arrangement

 

 Living alone

18,46917,2851,1846.4

 Living with others

17,48415,5311,95311.2

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).

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)
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 problemsTotalAt or above poverty levelBelow poverty levelRate1
 
 
 
 
 

Total, full-time wage and salary workers

118,203114,4503,7533.2

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

99,26498,5796850.7

Workers experiencing one labor market problem

 

   Unemployment only

5,2594,8913687.0

  Involuntary part-time employment only

2,5382,478602.3

   Low earnings only

7,6976,0371,66021.6

Workers experiencing multiple labor market problems

 

   Unemployment and involuntary part-time employment

993911828.2

   Unemployment and low earnings

1,35779556141.4

  Involuntary part-time employment and low earnings

72853918926.0

   Unemployment, involuntary part-time employment, and low earnings

36822014840.3

Workers experiencing each labor market problem

 

   Unemployment (alone or with other problems)

7,9766,8171,15914.5

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

4,6264,14747910.3

   Low earnings (alone or with other problems)

10,1497,5912,55825.2

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).

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.