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July 2018 Report 1074

A profile of the working poor, 2016

A profile of the working poor, 2016 image

In 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 40.6 million people, or 12.7 percent of the nation’s population, lived below the 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, 7.6 million individuals were among the “working poor” in 2016, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics; this measure was down from 2015. 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 poverty level. In 2016, the working-poor rate—the ratio of the working poor to all individuals in the labor force for at least 27 weeks—was 4.9 percent, down 0.7 percentage point from the previous year. (See table A, chart 1, and table 1.)

Highlights from the 2016 data

  • Full-time workers continued to be much less likely to be among the working poor than were part-time workers. Among people in the labor force for 27 weeks or more, 3.1 percent of those usually employed full time were classified as working poor, compared with 12.2 percent of part-time workers (table 1).

  • Women were more likely than men to be among the working poor. In addition, Blacks or African Americans and Hispanics or Latinos2 continued to be about twice as likely as Whites and Asians to be among the working poor. (See table 2 and chart 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, 13.7 percent of those who were in the labor force for at least 27 weeks were classified as working poor, compared with 1.4 percent of college graduates. (See 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. (See 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 twice as likely as families maintained by men to be living below the poverty level. (See table 5.)

Table A. Poverty status of people and primary families in the labor force for 27 weeks or more, 2007–16

(numbers in thousands)

Characteristic2007200820092010201120122013201420152016

Total in the labor force1

146,567147,838147,902146,859147,475148,735149,483150,319152,230153,364

In poverty

7,5218,88310,39110,51210,38210,61210,4509,4878,5607,572

Working-poor rate

5.16.07.07.27.07.17.06.35.64.9

Unrelated individuals

33,22632,78533,79834,09933,73134,81035,06135,01835,95335,789

In poverty

2,5583,2753,9473,9473,6213,8514,1413,3953,1372,792

Working-poor rate

7.710.011.711.610.711.111.89.78.77.8

Primary families2

65,15865,90765,46764,93166,22566,54166,46266,73267,19367,628

In poverty

4,1694,5385,1935,2695,4695,4785,1375,1084,6074,082

Working-poor rate

6.46.97.98.18.38.27.77.76.96.0

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 2016 for workers and their families. These data were collected in the 2017 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 this 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 2016, the number of women classified as working poor (4.1 million) was higher than that of men (3.4 million). The working-poor rate also continued to be higher for women, at 5.8 percent, than for men, at 4.2 percent, (table 2). The working-poor rates for both women and men were down from a year earlier.

Blacks and Hispanics were about twice as likely as Whites and Asians to be among the working poor. In 2016, the working-poor rates of Blacks and Hispanics were 8.7 percent and 8.5 percent, respectively, compared with 4.3 percent for Whites and 3.5 percent for Asians (table 2).

Among Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics, the working-poor rate was higher for women than for men. The rates for White women and men who spent at least 27 weeks in the labor force were 4.9 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively. The rate for Black women was 10.5 percent, compared with 6.7 percent for Black men. The working-poor rate for Hispanic women was 9.6 percent, while that of Hispanic men stood at 7.8 percent. Among Asians, the rates for women and men were little different from each other: 4.0 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively (table 2 and chart 2).

Young workers are more likely to be below the poverty level 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. The working-poor rate of employed youths 20 to 24 years old was 8.7 percent in 2016, considerably higher than the rates for workers ages 35 to 44 (5.6 percent) and 55 to 64 (2.8 percent). Workers age 65 and older had a working-poor rate of 1.5 percent (table 2).

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 2016, those with less than a high school diploma had a working-poor rate (13.7 percent) nearly twice that of high school graduates with no college (6.9 percent). Workers with some college or an associate’s degree and those with a bachelor’s degree or higher had the lowest working-poor rates (5.1 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively). In 2016, at all levels of educational attainment, women were more likely than men to be among the working poor. Blacks and Hispanics with a bachelor’s degree or higher were about twice as likely as Whites and Asians with the same educational attainment to be among the working poor (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, at 1.6 percent in 2016. By contrast, individuals employed in service occupations, which typically do not require high levels of education and are characterized by relatively low earnings, were more likely to be among the working poor, at 10.7 percent. Individuals employed in service occupations, with 2.8 million working poor, accounted for 39 percent of all those classified as workers below the poverty level (7.1 million). Among those employed in natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations, 5.7 percent were classified as working poor (table 4).

Families

In 2016, 4.1 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 is down from 4.6 million in 2015. Married-couple families with only one member in the labor force in 2016 were less likely to be living below the poverty level, at 7.7 percent, than were families maintained by men, at 11.6 percent, and maintained by women, at 21.5 percent (table 5).

Among families, those with children in the household were much more likely to live below the poverty level, (9.7 percent) than those without children (2.2 percent). Families maintained by women with children had a working-poor rate of 22.8 percent, more than double that of families maintained by men with children, at 11.2 percent. Both of these rates were higher than that for married-couple families with children (5.3 percent).

Unrelated individuals

The “unrelated individuals” category includes individuals who live by themselves or with others not related to them. Of the 35.8 million unrelated individuals who were in the labor force for 27 weeks or more, 2.8 million lived below the poverty level in 2016, down from 3.1 million a year earlier. The working-poor rate for unrelated individuals was 7.8 percent, a decrease of 0.9 percentage point from last year’s figure. (See table 6.)

Within the group of unrelated individuals, teenagers (those ages 16 to 19) continued to be the most likely to be among the working poor, at 38.2 percent, followed by those ages 20 to 24, at 15.6 percent, in 2016. Overall, the working-poor rate for men living alone or with nonrelatives was 6.8 percent, and the rate for women was 9.0 percent. The working-poor rates for unrelated individuals were higher for Blacks and Hispanics (11.4 percent and 10.8 percent, respectively) than for Whites (7.1 percent) and Asians (5.6 percent). (See table 7.)

Of the 2.8 million unrelated individuals considered to be among the working poor in 2016, 3 out of 5 lived with others. These individuals had a much higher working-poor rate, at 9.6 percent, than individuals who lived alone (6.1 percent). Many unrelated individuals living below the poverty level may live with others out of necessity. Conversely, many of those who live alone may 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

Even though people who usually work full time are less likely to live in poverty, there were still 3.4 million (or 2.9 percent) full-time wage and salary workers who were classified as working poor in 2016—down from 3.8 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 above the poverty threshold: periods of unemployment, involuntary part-time employment, and low earnings. (See the technical notes for detailed definitions.)

In 2016, 81 percent of the working poor who usually work full time experienced at least one of the major labor market problems mentioned above. Low earnings continued to be the most common problem among workers experiencing only one labor market problem, at 77 percent, followed by unemployment (21 percent). Among workers experiencing multiple labor market problems, those who experienced unemployment and low earnings had the highest rate below poverty level, at 35.7 percent (table 8).

Some 659,000, or 19 percent, of the working poor who usually worked full time did not experience any of the three primary labor market problems in 2016. 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

1Income and Poverty in the United States: 2016, Current Population Reports, P60-259 (U.S. Census Bureau, September 2017), table 3, https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2017/demo/P60-259.pdf

2 People of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity may be of any race.

Statistical Tables

 Table 1. People in the labor force: poverty status and work experience, by weeks in the labor force, 2016 (numbers in thousands)
Poverty status and work experience Total in labor force 27 weeks or more in labor force
Total 50 to 52 weeks

Total

Total in the labor force

166,221 153,364 140,137

 Did not work during the year

2,583 1,199 983

 Worked during the year

163,638 152,165 139,153

  Usual full-time workers

130,560 126,083 118,837

  Usual part-time workers

33,078 26,082 20,317

   Involuntary part-time workers

7,240 6,321 5,242

   Voluntary part-time workers

25,838 19,761 15,075

At or above poverty level

Total in the labor force

156,199 145,792 133,857

 Did not work during the year

1,663 732 582

 Worked during the year

154,536 145,060 133,275

  Usual full-time workers

125,793 122,157 115,476

  Usual part-time workers

28,743 22,903 17,799

   Involuntary part-time workers

5,648 4,990 4,121

   Voluntary part-time workers

23,096 17,913 13,677

Below poverty level

Total in the labor force

10,021 7,572 6,280

 Did not work during the year

920 466 401

 Worked during the year

9,101 7,105 5,878

  Usual full-time workers

4,767 3,926 3,361

  Usual part-time workers

4,335 3,179 2,518

   Involuntary part-time workers

1,592 1,331 1,120

   Voluntary part-time workers

2,742 1,848 1,397

Rate¹

Total in the labor force

6.0 4.9 4.5

 Did not work during the year

35.6 38.9 40.8

 Worked during the year

5.6 4.7 4.2

  Usual full-time workers

3.7 3.1 2.8

  Usual part-time workers

13.1 12.2 12.4

   Involuntary part-time workers

22.0 21.1 21.4

   Voluntary part-time workers

10.6 9.4 9.3

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, 2016 (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

153,364 120,202 18,864 9,418 25,673 7,572 5,222 1,649 330 2,192 4.9 4.3 8.7 3.5 8.5

  16 to 19 years

3,471 2,704 431 108 673 355 249 76 10 98 10.2 9.2 17.6 9.1 14.5

  20 to 24 years

13,310 10,145 1,901 582 2,989 1,156 779 247 43 272 8.7 7.7 13.0 7.5 9.1

  25 to 34 years

34,828 26,280 4,779 2,374 6,907 2,204 1,441 540 91 669 6.3 5.5 11.3 3.8 9.7

  35 to 44 years

31,930 24,345 4,136 2,373 6,290 1,783 1,257 391 62 651 5.6 5.2 9.4 2.6 10.4

  45 to 54 years

33,012 26,115 3,967 2,128 5,126 1,180 847 207 85 334 3.6 3.2 5.2 4.0 6.5

  55 to 64 years

26,862 22,125 2,757 1,445 2,895 745 547 152 31 137 2.8 2.5 5.5 2.1 4.7

  65 years and older

9,951 8,488 894 407 791 149 102 37 9 30 1.5 1.2 4.1 2.3 3.8

Men, 16 years and older

81,679 65,240 8,893 5,018 14,682 3,431 2,516 599 156 1,139 4.2 3.9 6.7 3.1 7.8

  16 to 19 years

1,659 1,303 201 49 337 168 121 38 4 51 10.1 9.3 19.1 - 15.1

  20 to 24 years

6,916 5,356 910 280 1,630 458 331 81 13 133 6.6 6.2 8.9 4.8 8.2

  25 to 34 years

18,766 14,347 2,352 1,326 4,046 998 698 187 50 345 5.3 4.9 7.9 3.7 8.5

  35 to 44 years

17,349 13,602 1,894 1,288 3,715 839 621 153 33 344 4.8 4.6 8.1 2.6 9.3

  45 to 54 years

17,427 14,132 1,809 1,102 2,907 544 420 70 36 178 3.1 3.0 3.8 3.2 6.1

  55 to 64 years

13,945 11,613 1,303 752 1,606 341 260 56 15 69 2.4 2.2 4.3 2.0 4.3

  65 years and older

5,617 4,886 425 222 442 83 65 13 5 19 1.5 1.3 3.0 2.3 4.2

Women, 16 years and older

71,685 54,962 9,971 4,400 10,991 4,140 2,707 1,050 175 1,053 5.8 4.9 10.5 4.0 9.6

  16 to 19 years

1,812 1,400 229 59 336 187 127 37 6 47 10.3 9.1 16.3 - 14.0

  20 to 24 years

6,394 4,789 991 302 1,360 698 449 165 30 139 10.9 9.4 16.7 9.9 10.2

  25 to 34 years

16,062 11,932 2,427 1,049 2,862 1,206 743 353 41 324 7.5 6.2 14.5 3.9 11.3

  35 to 44 years

14,581 10,743 2,242 1,085 2,575 943 636 237 28 307 6.5 5.9 10.6 2.6 11.9

  45 to 54 years

15,585 11,983 2,158 1,026 2,219 636 427 137 49 156 4.1 3.6 6.4 4.8 7.0

  55 to 64 years

12,917 10,511 1,454 693 1,289 404 288 95 16 69 3.1 2.7 6.6 2.3 5.3

  65 years and older

4,334 3,602 469 185 349 66 37 24 4 11 1.5 1.0 5.1 2.3 3.2

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. 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, 2016 (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

153,364 81,679 71,685 7,572 3,431 4,140 4.9 4.2 5.8

 Less than a high school diploma

12,094 7,586 4,507 1,651 875 777 13.7 11.5 17.2

    Less than 1 year of high school

3,895 2,613 1,282 532 310 222 13.6 11.8 17.3

    1–3 years of high school

6,366 3,849 2,516 923 481 442 14.5 12.5 17.6

    4 years of high school, no diploma

1,833 1,124 710 196 84 113 10.7 7.5 15.9

 High school graduates, no college²

40,857 23,963 16,894 2,831 1,380 1,451 6.9 5.8 8.6

 Some college or associate's degree

44,263 22,032 22,231 2,276 879 1,398 5.1 4.0 6.3

    Some college, no degree

27,817 14,322 13,495 1,658 657 1,000 6.0 4.6 7.4

    Associate's degree

16,446 7,710 8,736 619 221 397 3.8 2.9 4.5

 Bachelor's degree and higher³

56,150 28,098 28,052 813 298 515 1.4 1.1 1.8

White, 16 years and older

120,202 65,240 54,962 5,222 2,516 2,707 4.3 3.9 4.9

 Less than a high school diploma

9,464 6,178 3,286 1,238 712 527 13.1 11.5 16.0

    Less than 1 year of high school

3,216 2,225 992 454 283 171 14.1 12.7 17.2

    1–3 years of high school

4,910 3,095 1,815 645 370 275 13.1 12.0 15.1

    4 years of high school, no diploma

1,338 858 480 139 58 81 10.4 6.8 16.8

 High school graduates, no college²

31,809 19,142 12,667 1,923 997 926 6.0 5.2 7.3

 Some college or associate's degree

34,511 17,485 17,026 1,477 585 892 4.3 3.3 5.2

    Some college, no degree

21,238 11,158 10,080 1,077 427 650 5.1 3.8 6.4

    Associate's degree

13,273 6,327 6,946 400 158 242 3.0 2.5 3.5

 Bachelor's degree and higher³

44,418 22,435 21,982 585 222 362 1.3 1.0 1.6

Black or African American, 16 years and older

18,864 8,893 9,971 1,649 599 1,050 8.7 6.7 10.5

 Less than a high school diploma

1,487 765 722 282 100 182 19.0 13.1 25.2

    Less than 1 year of high school

291 159 132 31 6 25 10.7 4.0 18.9

    1–3 years of high school

898 442 456 209 77 132 23.3 17.5 28.9

    4 years of high school, no diploma

298 163 135 42 16 26 14.1 9.9 19.3

 High school graduates, no college²

5,934 3,159 2,775 662 256 406 11.2 8.1 14.6

 Some college or associate's degree

6,393 2,837 3,556 576 197 379 9.0 6.9 10.7

    Some college, no degree

4,313 1,950 2,364 418 153 265 9.7 7.8 11.2

    Associate's degree

2,080 888 1,192 158 44 114 7.6 5.0 9.5

 Bachelor's degree and higher³

5,049 2,132 2,917 129 46 83 2.5 2.1 2.8

Asian, 16 years and older

9,418 5,018 4,400 330 156 175 3.5 3.1 4.0

 Less than a high school diploma

525 267 259 43 21 22 8.2 7.8 8.5

    Less than 1 year of high school

211 103 108 16 4 11 7.4 4.1 10.6

    1–3 years of high school

207 110 96 17 10 7 8.3 9.1 7.4

    4 years of high school, no diploma

108 53 55 10 7 3 9.3 - -

 High school graduates, no college²

1,701 893 808 111 58 52 6.5 6.5 6.5

 Some college or associate's degree

1,774 910 864 102 49 53 5.8 5.4 6.2

    Some college, no degree

1,160 625 535 77 38 39 6.7 6.1 7.4

    Associate's degree

613 285 329 25 11 14 4.1 3.9 4.2

 Bachelor's degree and higher³

5,418 2,948 2,470 74 27 47 1.4 0.9 1.9

Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, 16 years and older

25,673 14,682 10,991 2,192 1,139 1,053 8.5 7.8 9.6

 Less than a high school diploma

6,044 4,028 2,016 889 516 374 14.7 12.8 18.5

    Less than 1 year of high school

2,933 2,030 903 439 262 176 15.0 12.9 19.5

    1–3 years of high school

2,396 1,529 867 382 221 161 15.9 14.5 18.5

    4 years of high school, no diploma

714 469 245 69 32 36 9.6 6.9 14.9

 High school graduates, no college²

8,162 5,016 3,145 786 421 365 9.6 8.4 11.6

 Some college or associate's degree

6,890 3,440 3,450 391 152 239 5.7 4.4 6.9

    Some college, no degree

4,742 2,417 2,324 308 127 180 6.5 5.3 7.8

    Associate's degree

2,148 1,022 1,126 84 25 59 3.9 2.5 5.2

Bachelor's degree and higher³

4,577 2,198 2,379 126 50 76 2.8 2.3 3.2

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, 2016 (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

152,165 81,000 71,166 7,105 3,169 3,936 4.7 3.9 5.5

 Management, professional, and related occupations

60,375 29,110 31,264 943 368 575 1.6 1.3 1.8

   Management, business, and financial operations occupations

25,619 14,181 11,438 402 211 191 1.6 1.5 1.7

   Professional and related occupations

34,756 14,930 19,826 541 157 384 1.6 1.1 1.9

 Service occupations

26,177 11,437 14,741 2,800 1,000 1,800 10.7 8.7 12.2

 Sales and office occupations

33,203 12,770 20,433 1,615 458 1,156 4.9 3.6 5.7

   Sales and related occupations

15,553 7,739 7,814 892 247 645 5.7 3.2 8.3

   Office and administrative support occupations

17,650 5,031 12,619 723 211 511 4.1 4.2 4.1

 Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations

14,277 13,568 709 814 741 73 5.7 5.5 10.3

   Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

1,195 896 299 117 83 35 9.8 9.2 11.6

   Construction and extraction occupations

8,052 7,816 235 570 544 26 7.1 7.0 11.0

   Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

5,030 4,855 174 127 115 12 2.5 2.4 7.0

 Production, transportation, and material-moving occupations

18,063 14,053 4,010 931 598 332 5.2 4.3 8.3

   Production occupations

8,630 6,187 2,443 391 228 163 4.5 3.7 6.7

   Transportation and material-moving occupations

9,433 7,866 1,567 540 371 169 5.7 4.7 10.8

White, 16 years and older²

119,494 64,844 54,649 4,951 2,353 2,598 4.1 3.6 4.8

 Management, professional, and related occupations

48,478 23,647 24,831 698 299 399 1.4 1.3 1.6

   Management, business, and financial operations occupations

21,368 12,055 9,313 330 183 147 1.5 1.5 1.6

   Professional and related occupations

27,110 11,592 15,518 369 117 252 1.4 1.0 1.6

 Service occupations

18,957 8,474 10,483 1,854 677 1,177 9.8 8.0 11.2

 Sales and office occupations

26,020 10,142 15,878 1,063 331 733 4.1 3.3 4.6

   Sales and related occupations

12,466 6,481 5,985 590 193 397 4.7 3.0 6.6

   Office and administrative support occupations

13,554 3,661 9,893 473 137 335 3.5 3.8 3.4

 Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations

12,410 11,796 614 702 642 60 5.7 5.4 9.8

   Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

1,086 815 272 112 81 31 10.3 9.9 11.4

   Construction and extraction occupations

7,037 6,838 200 483 461 21 6.9 6.7 10.7

   Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

4,286 4,144 143 108 100 8 2.5 2.4 5.5

 Production, transportation, and material-moving occupations

13,581 10,745 2,836 631 400 230 4.6 3.7 8.1

   Production occupations

6,652 4,903 1,749 278 159 119 4.2 3.2 6.8

   Transportation and material-moving occupations

6,930 5,842 1,087 353 242 112 5.1 4.1 10.3

Black or African American, 16 years and older²

18,515 8,698 9,817 1,494 517 977 8.1 5.9 10.0

 Management, professional, and related occupations

5,601 2,150 3,451 139 38 101 2.5 1.8 2.9

   Management, business, and financial operations occupations

2,015 927 1,088 42 14 28 2.1 1.5 2.6

   Professional and related occupations

3,587 1,223 2,364 96 24 72 2.7 1.9 3.1

 Service occupations

4,591 1,862 2,728 660 194 466 14.4 10.4 17.1

 Sales and office occupations

4,276 1,452 2,824 405 81 324 9.5 5.6 11.5

   Sales and related occupations

1,741 633 1,109 208 26 182 12.0 4.1 16.5

   Office and administrative support occupations

2,535 820 1,716 196 55 141 7.8 6.7 8.2

 Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations

1,076 1,023 53 71 65 5 6.6 6.4 -

   Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

63 50 13 1 1 - - - -

   Construction and extraction occupations

603 579 25 64 60 5 10.6 10.3 -

   Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

410 395 15 5 4 1 1.2 1.1 -

 Production, transportation, and material-moving occupations

2,958 2,198 760 220 139 81 7.4 6.3 10.7

   Production occupations

1,176 784 392 80 47 33 6.8 6.0 8.5

   Transportation and material-moving occupations

1,782 1,413 368 140 92 48 7.9 6.5 13.0

Asian, 16 years and older²

9,330 4,966 4,364 313 150 162 3.4 3.0 3.7

 Management, professional, and related occupations

4,828 2,648 2,180 67 23 44 1.4 0.9 2.0

   Management, business, and financial operations occupations

1,655 927 729 19 11 8 1.1 1.2 1.0

   Professional and related occupations

3,173 1,721 1,451 48 12 36 1.5 0.7 2.5

 Service occupations

1,516 608 908 135 58 76 8.9 9.6 8.4

 Sales and office occupations

1,783 789 994 64 38 26 3.6 4.8 2.6

   Sales and related occupations

887 444 443 47 25 21 5.3 5.7 4.8

   Office and administrative support occupations

896 345 551 17 13 4 1.9 3.7 0.8

 Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations

329 312 18 11 8 3 3.4 2.4 -

   Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

9 1 8 - - - - - -

   Construction and extraction occupations

157 155 2 3 3 - 1.9 2.0 -

   Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

164 156 8 8 5 3 4.9 2.9 -

 Production, transportation, and material-moving occupations

870 606 264 36 23 13 4.2 3.9 4.9

   Production occupations

507 307 200 15 7 8 2.9 2.4 3.8

   Transportation and material-moving occupations

363 299 64 22 16 6 5.9 5.4 -

Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, 16 years and older²

25,446 14,558 10,888 2,100 1,097 1,003 8.3 7.5 9.2

 Management, professional, and related occupations

5,569 2,569 3,000 174 71 103 3.1 2.8 3.4

   Management, business, and financial operations occupations

2,429 1,285 1,143 97 54 42 4.0 4.2 3.7

   Professional and related occupations

3,141 1,284 1,857 77 16 61 2.5 1.3 3.3

 Service occupations

6,264 2,928 3,336 845 343 501 13.5 11.7 15.0

 Sales and office occupations

5,333 2,090 3,243 352 113 238 6.6 5.4 7.4

   Sales and related occupations

2,467 1,183 1,283 195 72 124 7.9 6.1 9.6

   Office and administrative support occupations

2,866 907 1,960 156 41 115 5.5 4.6 5.9

 Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations

4,308 4,047 261 409 373 35 9.5 9.2 13.6

   Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

535 382 153 65 43 22 12.1 11.2 14.5

   Construction and extraction occupations

2,770 2,706 64 279 271 8 10.1 10.0 -

   Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

1,004 959 44 65 60 5 6.4 6.2 -

 Production, transportation, and material-moving occupations

3,963 2,917 1,046 320 196 125 8.1 6.7 11.9

   Production occupations

1,970 1,280 689 158 90 68 8.0 7.0 9.9

   Transportation and material-moving occupations

1,993 1,636 357 162 106 56 8.1 6.5 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, 2016 (numbers in thousands)
Characteristic Total families At or above poverty level Below poverty level Rate¹

Total primary families

67,628 63,546 4,082 6.0

  With related children under 18 years

34,681 31,333 3,347 9.7

  Without children

32,947 32,213 734 2.2

  With one member in the labor force

29,090 25,547 3,542 12.2

  With two or more members in the labor force

38,538 37,999 539 1.4

    With two members

32,140 31,645 495 1.5

    With three or more members

6,399 6,355 44 0.7

Married-couple families²

49,798 48,156 1,642 3.3

  With related children under 18 years

24,224 22,941 1,283 5.3

  Without children

25,574 25,215 359 1.4

  With one member in the labor force

17,231 15,903 1,328 7.7

    Husband

12,160 11,176 985 8.1

    Wife

4,303 4,030 272 6.3

    Relative

768 696 72 9.3

  With two or more members in the labor force

32,567 32,253 313 1.0

    With two members

27,537 27,246 290 1.1

    With three or more members

5,030 5,007 23 0.5

Families maintained by women³

12,253 10,262 1,991 16.2

  With related children under 18 years

7,701 5,945 1,756 22.8

  Without children

4,552 4,317 235 5.2

  With one member in the labor force

8,497 6,674 1,823 21.5

    Householder

6,779 5,202 1,577 23.3

    Relative

1,718 1,472 246 14.3

  With two or more members in the labor force

3,756 3,588 168 4.5

Families maintained by men³

5,577 5,129 449 8.0

  With related children under 18 years

2,756 2,447 309 11.2

  Without children

2,821 2,681 140 5.0

  With one member in the labor force

3,362 2,971 391 11.6

    Householder

2,684 2,403 280 10.5

    Relative

678 568 111 16.3

  With two or more members in the labor force

2,216 2,158 58 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 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, 2016 (numbers in thousands)
Poverty status and work experience Total 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

254,413 60,187 60,772 5,687 21,691 15,551 2,223 14,565 6,409 704 7,214 59,411

  With labor force activity

166,221 45,407 37,550 1,501 13,519 10,816 497 8,969 4,875 163 4,665 38,258

    1 to 26 weeks

12,857 1,539 2,626 860 2,478 786 267 1,086 229 104 415 2,468

    27 weeks or more

153,364 43,868 34,924 641 11,041 10,030 230 7,883 4,647 60 4,250 35,789

  With no labor force activity

88,193 14,780 23,222 4,186 8,172 4,735 1,726 5,595 1,534 541 2,549 21,153

At or above poverty level

All people

225,760 57,112 57,678 5,380 20,808 11,416 1,492 12,406 5,565 569 6,479 46,856

  With labor force activity

156,199 43,987 36,823 1,458 13,289 8,683 386 8,255 4,475 129 4,421 34,292

    1 to 26 weeks

10,407 1,406 2,440 839 2,405 366 198 858 158 77 366 1,294

    27 weeks or more

145,792 42,581 34,383 618 10,884 8,317 188 7,398 4,317 52 4,055 32,998

   With no labor force activity

69,561 13,124 20,855 3,922 7,519 2,733 1,106 4,150 1,090 440 2,058 12,564

Below poverty level

All people

28,653 3,076 3,094 307 883 4,134 731 2,159 844 135 735 12,555

   With labor force activity

10,021 1,420 727 43 229 2,132 111 714 400 34 244 3,966

     1 to 26 weeks

2,450 133 186 20 72 420 69 228 70 27 49 1,174

     27 weeks or more

7,572 1,287 542 22 157 1,713 42 486 330 7 195 2,792

   With no labor force activity

18,632 1,656 2,367 265 653 2,002 620 1,445 444 100 491 8,589

Rate³

All people

11.3 5.1 5.1 5.4 4.1 26.6 32.9 14.8 13.2 19.1 10.2 21.1

   With labor force activity

6.0 3.1 1.9 2.8 1.7 19.7 22.4 8.0 8.2 20.8 5.2 10.4

     1 to 26 weeks

19.1 8.7 7.1 2.4 2.9 53.4 26.0 21.0 30.8 25.8 11.9 47.6

     27 weeks or more

4.9 2.9 1.6 3.5 1.4 17.1 18.3 6.2 7.1 - 4.6 7.8

   With no labor force activity

21.1 11.2 10.2 6.3 8.0 42.3 35.9 25.8 28.9 18.6 19.3 40.6

¹ 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, 2016 (numbers in thousands)
Characteristic Total At or above poverty level Below poverty level Rate¹

Age and gender

Total unrelated individuals

35,789 32,998 2,792 7.8

 16 to 19 years

375 232 143 38.2

 20 to 24 years

4,248 3,584 664 15.6

 25 to 64 years

28,458 26,542 1,916 6.7

 65 years and older

2,708 2,639 68 2.5

 Men

19,550 18,215 1,335 6.8

 Women

16,239 14,783 1,456 9.0

Race and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity

White

27,693 25,725 1,968 7.1

    Men

15,286 14,331 954 6.2

    Women

12,408 11,394 1,013 8.2

 Black or African American

5,238 4,640 598 11.4

    Men

2,732 2,439 293 10.7

    Women

2,506 2,201 305 12.2

 Asian

1,603 1,514 89 5.6

    Men

838 810 28 3.4

    Women

765 704 61 8.0

 Hispanic or Latino ethnicity

4,735 4,225 510 10.8

    Men

2,941 2,683 258 8.8

    Women

1,794 1,542 252 14.1

Living arrangement

 Living alone

18,344 17,228 1,117 6.1

 Living with others

17,445 15,770 1,675 9.6

¹ Number below the poverty level as percentage of 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, 2016 (numbers in thousands)
Labor market problems Total At or above poverty level Below poverty level Rate¹

Total, full-time wage and salary workers

119,915 116,480 3,435 2.9

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

102,040 101,381 659 0.6

Workers experiencing one labor market problem

   Unemployment only

5,409 4,994 415 7.7

   Involuntary part-time employment only

2,612 2,566 46 1.8

   Low earnings only

6,900 5,389 1,510 21.9

Workers experiencing multiple labor market problems

   Unemployment and involuntary part-time employment

786 690 96 12.2

   Unemployment and low earnings

1,163 748 415 35.7

   Involuntary part-time employment and low earnings

676 519 156 23.2

   Unemployment, involuntary part-time employment, and low earnings

330 192 138 41.8

Workers experiencing each labor market problem

   Unemployment (alone or with other problems)

7,688 6,624 1,064 13.8

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

4,404 3,968 436 9.9

   Low earnings (alone or with other problems)

9,069 6,849 2,220 24.5

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

² The low-earnings threshold in 2016 was $353.25 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). The CPS is a monthly sample survey of about 60,000 eligible households, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data from the CPS are used to obtain the 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 2017 refer to the 2016 calendar year.

Estimates in this report are based on a sample and, consequently, may differ from figures 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, 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: 2016,” Current Population Reports, p60-259 (U.S. Census Bureau, September 2017), https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2017/demo/P60-259.pdf.

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

Upon request, the information in this report will be made available to individuals who are sensory impaired. 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, predicated on the basis of factors such as family size and the number of children under 18 years of age.

The actual poverty thresholds vary because of the makeup of the family. In 2016, the weighted average poverty threshold for a family of four was $24,563; for a family of nine or more people, the threshold was $49,721; and for one person (unrelated individual), it was $12,228. 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: 2016,” https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2017/demo/P60-259.pdf.)

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 2016, the low-earnings threshold was $353.25 per week. For a complete definition, see Bruce W. Klein and Philip L. Rones, “A profile of the working poor,” Monthly Labor Review, October 1989, pp. 3–11, 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: 2016,” https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2017/demo/P60-259.pdf.

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 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.

Householder. The householder is the family reference person. This is the person, or one of the persons, in whose name the housing unit is owned or rented. The relationships of the other individuals in the household are defined in terms of their relationships to the householder. The race or ethnicity of the family is determined by that of the householder.

Family. A family is a group of two or more people residing together who are related by birth, marriage, or adoption; all such people are considered members of one family. The count of families is for “primary” families only. A primary family consists of a householder and all other people related to and residing with the householder. A subfamily is a family that does not maintain its own household, for example, a married couple living in the home of a friend and their family. Families include those with or without children under 18 years old. Families are classified either as married-couple families, which refers to opposite-sex married couples only, or as those maintained by men or women without opposite-sex spouses present. The household may or may not include a same-sex spouse or an unmarried domestic partner of either sex. 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. These are children under age 18 that live in the household. Included are sons, daughters, stepchildren, and adopted children of the husband, wife, or person maintaining the family. Not included are nieces, nephews, grandchildren, other related children, and all unrelated children living in the household.

Race. White, Black or African American, Asian, American Indian and Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander are terms used to describe the race of people. Beginning in 2003, people in these categories are those who selected that race group only. Those who identify multiple race groups are categorized as people of Two or More Races. Estimates for American Indians and Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders, and people of Two or More Races are included in totals, but are not shown separately because the number of survey respondents is too small to develop estimates of publication quality. 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.