U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

A profile of the working poor, 2017

April 2019 | Report 1079

About 39.7 million people, or 12.3 percent of the nation’s population, lived below the official poverty level in 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.(1) (See the technical notes section for examples of poverty levels.) Although the poor were primarily adults who had not participated in the labor force during the year and children, 6.9 million individuals were among the “working poor” in 2017, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics; this measure was down from 7.6 million in 2016. 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 2017, the working-poor rate—the ratio of the working poor to all individuals in the labor force for at least 27 weeks—was 4.5 percent, 0.4 percentage point lower than the previous year’s figure. (See table A, chart 1, and table 1.)

Following are some highlights from the 2017 data:

Table A. Poverty status of people and primary families in the labor force for 27 weeks or more, 2007–17 (Numbers in thousands)
Table A. Poverty status of people and primary families in the labor force for 27 weeks or more, 2007–17 (Numbers in thousands)
Characteristic20072008200920102011201220132014201520162017
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Total in the labor force(1)

146,567147,838147,902146,859147,475148,735149,483150,319152,230153,364154,762

In poverty

7,5218,88310,39110,51210,38210,61210,4509,4878,5607,5726,946

Working poor rate

5.16.07.07.27.07.17.06.35.64.94.5

Unrelated individuals

33,22632,78533,79834,09933,73134,81035,06135,01835,95335,78936,959

In poverty

2,5583,2753,9473,9473,6213,8514,1413,3953,1372,7922,524

Working poor rate

7.710.011.711.610.711.111.89.78.77.86.8

Primary families(2)

65,15865,90765,46764,93166,22566,54166,46266,73267,19367,62867,588

In poverty

4,1694,5385,1935,2695,4695,4785,1375,1084,6074,0823,854

Working poor rate

6.46.97.98.18.38.27.77.76.96.05.7

(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, Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) of the Current Population Survey (CPS).

(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, Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) of the Current Population Survey (CPS).

This report presents data on the relationship between labor force activity and poverty status in 2017 for workers and their families. These data were collected in the 2018 Annual Social and Economic Supplement of 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, living alone, or living with nonrelatives. For people living with 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.

chart1

Demographic characteristics

Among those who were in the labor force for 27 weeks or more in 2017, the number of women classified as working poor (3.8 million) was higher than that of men (3.1 million). The working-poor rate also continued to be higher for women (5.3 percent) than for men (3.8 percent). The working-poor rates for both women and men were down from a year earlier (table 2).

Blacks and Hispanics were more than twice as likely as Whites and Asians to be among the working poor. In 2017, the working-poor rate for both Blacks and Hispanics was 7.9 percent, compared with 3.9 percent for Whites and 2.9 percent for Asians (table 2 and chart 2).

chart2

Among Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics, 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 4.5 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively. The rate for Black women was 10.0 percent, compared with 5.6 percent for Black men. The working-poor rate for Hispanic women was 9.1 percent, while the rate for Hispanic men was 7.0 percent. Among Asians, the rates for women and men were little different from each other at 2.5 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively.

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, 8.4 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds and 8.5 percent of 20- to 24-year-olds were living in poverty in 2017. Those rates were higher than the rates for workers ages 25 to 34 (5.7 percent) and 35 to 44 (5.0 percent). Workers ages 45 to 54, 55 to 64, and 65 and older had lower working-poor rates—3.1 percent, 2.6 percent, and 1.5 percent, respectively—than did those in younger age groups (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. Among people in the labor force for 27 weeks or more in 2017, those with less than a high school diploma had the highest working-poor rate, at 13.7 percent, while those with a bachelor’s degree or higher had the lowest, at 1.5 percent (table 3).

In 2017, 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 (1.5 percent). Blacks and Hispanics generally were more likely to be among the working poor than were Whites and Asians with the same educational attainment.

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, 1.4 percent of those in management, professional, and related occupations were among the working poor in 2017. 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, 9.0 percent of service workers who were in the labor force for at least 27 weeks were classified as working poor in 2017. The 2.3 million working poor employed in service occupations accounted for 36 percent of all those classified as working poor. Among those employed in natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations, 6.0 percent were classified as working poor (table 4).

Families

In 2017, 3.9 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 4.1 million in 2016. Among families with only one member in the labor force for at least 27 weeks in 2017, married-couple families were less likely to be living below the poverty level, at 7.1 percent, than were families maintained by women, at 21.5 percent, or families maintained by men, at 10.9 percent (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 who lived in poverty was 9.2 percent, compared with 2.0 percent for families without children. Among families with children under 18, the working-poor rate for those maintained by women (22.4 percent) was higher than that for those maintained by men (10.1 percent). Married-couple families with children under 18 had a working-poor rate of 5.0 percent in 2017.

Unrelated individuals

The “unrelated individuals” category includes individuals who live by themselves or with others not related to them. Of the 37.0 million unrelated individuals who were in the labor force for half the year or longer, 2.5 million lived below the poverty level in 2017, down from 2.8 million a year earlier. The working-poor rate for unrelated individuals was 6.8 percent, a decrease of 1.0 percentage point from last 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 2017, 30.9 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 6.2 percent, and the rate for women was 7.5 percent. The working-poor rates for unrelated individuals were higher for Hispanics and Blacks (9.9 percent and 9.6 percent, respectively) than for Whites (6.2 percent), and Asians (4.6 percent). (See table 7.)

Of the 2.5 million unrelated individuals considered to be among the working poor in 2017, about 3 out of 5 lived with others. These individuals had a 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, 3.3 million, or 2.7 percent, were classified as working poor in 2017—little different than the 3.4-million figure 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 2017, 80 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 67 percent subject to low earnings, either as the only problem or in combination with other labor market problems. About 28 percent experienced unemployment as the main labor market problem or in conjunction with other problems. Three percent of the working poor experienced all three problems: low earnings, unemployment, and involuntary part-time employment (table 8).

Some 659,000, or 20 percent, of the working poor who usually worked full time did not experience any of the three primary labor market problems in 2017. 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: 2017,” Current Population Reports, P60-263 (U.S. Census Bureau, September 2018), table 3, https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2018/demo/p60-263.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, 2017 (Numbers in thousands)
Table 1. People in the labor force: poverty status and work experience by weeks in the labor force, 2017 (Numbers in thousands)
Poverty status and work experienceTotal in labor force27 weeks or more in labor force
Total50 to 52 weeks
 
 
 
 

Total

Total in the labor force

167,538154,762141,425

  Did not work during the year

2,3751,067907

  Worked during the year

165,163153,694140,519

Usual full-time workers

132,784128,271120,513

Usual part-time workers

32,37925,42420,006

Involuntary part-time workers

6,1445,2824,446

Voluntary part-time workers

26,23520,14115,560

At or above poverty level

Total in the labor force

158,195147,816135,730

  Did not work during the year

1,529661551

  Worked during the year

156,666147,155135,178

Usual full-time workers

128,244124,494117,309

Usual part-time workers

28,42222,66117,869

Involuntary part-time workers

4,9164,3113,631

Voluntary part-time workers

23,50618,35014,238

Below poverty level

Total in the labor force

9,3436,9465,696

  Did not work during the year

846407355

  Worked during the year

8,4976,5395,340

Usual full-time workers

4,5403,7773,204

Usual part-time workers

3,9572,7622,137

Involuntary part-time workers

1,228971816

Voluntary part-time workers

2,7291,7911,321

Rate(1)

Total in the labor force

5.64.54.0

  Did not work during the year

35.638.139.2

  Worked during the year

5.14.33.8

Usual full-time workers

3.42.92.7

Usual part-time workers

12.210.910.7

Involuntary part-time workers

20.018.418.3

Voluntary part-time workers

10.48.98.5

(1)Number below the poverty level as a percent of the total in the labor force.

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

(1)Number below the poverty level as a percent of the total in the labor force.

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

Table 2. People in the labor force for 27 weeks or more: poverty status by age, gender, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, 2017 (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, 2017 (Numbers in thousands)
Age and genderTotalBelow poverty levelRace(1)
TotalWhiteBlack or African AmericanAsianHispanic or LatinoTotalWhiteBlack or African AmericanAsianHispanic or LatinoTotalWhiteBlack or African AmericanAsianHispanic or Latino
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Total, 16 years and older

154,762120,75019,2259,69926,3716,9464,7541,5182792,0824.53.97.92.97.9

16 to 19 years

3,6202,851462119769305196745898.46.916.14.311.6

20 to 24 years

13,1709,8831,9515912,8901,115672325272418.56.816.64.68.3

25 to 34 years

35,06526,2354,9582,4206,9681,9971,324510656035.75.010.32.78.7

35 to 44 years

32,66224,7404,2712,5196,5391,6461,170309686455.04.77.22.79.9

45 to 54 years

32,76925,8123,9302,1365,3541,023744166593293.12.94.22.86.1

55 to 64 years

27,19022,3592,8451,4583,061709533108511472.62.43.83.54.8

65 years and older

10,2868,870808455791152116274271.51.33.30.93.4

Men, 16 years and older

82,56265,7219,0475,20215,0853,1322,2915031661,0513.83.55.63.27.0

16 to 19 years

1,7721,3972126737711474253426.45.311.6-11.1

20 to 24 years

6,8425,1939653171,592475292119161096.95.612.35.06.8

25 to 34 years

18,98714,5092,3661,3494,038824614126442904.34.25.33.37.2

35 to 44 years

17,74013,7882,0031,3663,837787602107383524.44.45.32.89.2

45 to 54 years

17,23013,8891,7991,1003,04849636376351652.92.64.23.25.4

55 to 64 years

14,18211,8291,3307641,7353632874127832.62.43.13.64.8

65 years and older

5,8105,116371240458745810291.31.12.60.92.0

Women, 16 years and older

72,19955,03010,1784,49711,2863,8142,4631,0151131,0325.34.510.02.59.1

16 to 19 years

1,8481,454250523921911225024710.38.419.9-12.1

20 to 24 years

6,3284,6909862741,2986403792051113210.18.120.84.110.2

25 to 34 years

16,07811,7262,5911,0722,9301,173710384213137.36.114.81.910.7

35 to 44 years

14,92210,9522,2681,1542,702859567202302935.85.28.92.610.8

45 to 54 years

15,53911,9232,1311,0362,30652738190241643.43.24.22.37.1

55 to 64 years

13,00810,5301,5156951,3263472456723642.72.34.43.34.9

65 years and older

4,4763,7554372153327858172181.71.63.90.95.4

(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, Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) of the Current Population Survey (CPS).

(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, Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) of the Current Population Survey (CPS).

Table 3. People in the labor force for 27 weeks or more: poverty status by educational attainment, race, Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, and gender, 2017 (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, 2017 (Numbers in thousands)
Educational attainment, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicityTotalMenWomenBelow poverty levelRate(1)
TotalMenWomenTotalMenWomen
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Total, 16 years and older

154,76282,56272,1996,9463,1323,8144.53.85.3

 Less than a high school diploma

12,0137,4884,5251,64092571513.712.415.8

    Less than 1 year of high school

3,7922,4961,29654835119714.414.015.2

    1–3 years of high school

6,3983,8222,57690145744414.112.017.2

    4 years of high school, no diploma

1,8231,1696541921177510.510.011.4

 High school graduates, no college(2)

40,55024,01716,5342,5311,0761,4556.24.58.8

  Some college or associate's degree

43,67321,78921,8851,8886901,1984.33.25.5

    Some college, no degree

27,23614,14213,0941,3705348365.03.86.4

    Associate's degree

16,4377,6478,7905181563623.22.04.1

 Bachelor's degree and higher(3)

58,52429,26929,2558864414451.51.51.5

White, 16 years and older

120,75065,72155,0304,7542,2912,4633.93.54.5

 Less than a high school diploma

9,4826,1643,3181,18571547112.511.614.2

    Less than 1 year of high school

3,1502,17098044229115014.013.415.3

    1–3 years of high school

4,9923,0971,89561432828612.310.615.1

    4 years of high school, no diploma

1,33989644313095349.710.67.8

 High school graduates, no college(2)

31,51719,02312,4931,6977759225.44.17.4

  Some college or associate's degree

33,80617,28716,5191,2164737433.62.74.5

    Some college, no degree

20,73711,0519,6868633525114.23.25.3

    Associate's degree

13,0696,2366,8333531212322.71.93.4

 Bachelor's degree and higher(3)

45,94623,24722,6996553283271.41.41.4

Black or African American, 16 years and older

19,2259,04710,1781,5185031,0157.95.610.0

 Less than a high school diploma

1,34467666829612117422.017.926.1

    Less than 1 year of high school

2209412636142216.415.017.5

    1–3 years of high school

8014133882149212326.822.331.6

    4 years of high school, no diploma

32316915445153014.09.019.4

 High school graduates, no college(2)

6,0263,2842,74260918542410.15.615.4

  Some college or associate's degree

6,4022,8083,5954891453437.65.29.5

    Some college, no degree

4,2831,9772,3063801262548.96.411.0

    Associate's degree

2,1198311,28810919895.12.36.9

 Bachelor's degree and higher(3)

5,4532,2793,17412451742.32.22.3

Asian, 16 years and older

9,6995,2024,4972791661132.93.22.5

 Less than a high school diploma

56427928559342510.412.28.6

    Less than 1 year of high school

23610912738221616.120.412.5

    1–3 years of high school

23811412416886.77.26.2

    4 years of high school, no diploma

9156355415.3--

 High school graduates, no college(2)

1,5518706818652345.66.05.1

  Some college or associate's degree

1,7278728555628283.33.23.3

    Some college, no degree

1,0415514903319143.23.52.8

    Associate's degree

687321365239143.42.83.9

 Bachelor's degree and higher(3)

5,8573,1812,6767852261.31.61.0

Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, 16 years and older

26,37115,08511,2862,0821,0511,0327.97.09.1

 Less than a high school diploma

5,9874,0081,97989355334014.913.817.2

    Less than 1 year of high school

2,8511,95489740526014514.213.316.2

    1–3 years of high school

2,4281,54288740122517716.514.620.0

    4 years of high school, no diploma

70851319587691812.313.59.3

 High school graduates, no college(2)

8,4115,1643,2476763223548.06.210.9

  Some college or associate's degree

7,0033,5123,4913681122565.33.27.3

    Some college, no degree

4,6952,4482,246277851915.93.58.5

    Associate's degree

2,3091,0641,2449127644.02.55.2

 Bachelor's degree and higher(3)

4,9702,4012,56914563822.92.63.2

(1)Number below the poverty level as a percent 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, Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) of the Current Population Survey (CPS).

(1)Number below the poverty level as a percent 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, Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) of the Current Population Survey (CPS).

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, 2017 (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, 2017 (Numbers in thousands)
Occupation, race, and Hispanic or Latino ethnicityTotalMenWomenBelow poverty levelRate(1)
TotalMenWomenTotalMenWomen
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Total, 16 years and older(2)

153,69481,94571,7496,5392,9113,6284.33.65.1

  Management, professional, and related occupations

61,89429,94731,9488923875051.41.31.6

   Management, business, and financial operations occupations

25,72314,20511,5182671561111.01.11.0

   Professional and related occupations

36,17115,74220,4296252323941.71.51.9

 Service occupations

25,90211,16014,7422,3417131,6289.06.411.0

 Sales and office occupations

32,90112,92919,9721,4463941,0524.43.05.3

   Sales and related occupations

15,4187,8857,5348802536275.73.28.3

    Office and administrative support occupations

17,4825,04412,4385661414253.22.83.4

  Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations

14,33213,574758860775856.05.711.2

   Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

1,18186431711566499.77.715.4

    Construction and extraction occupations

8,2207,982238584553317.16.912.8

    Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

4,9314,72820316115563.33.32.9

  Production, transportation, and material-moving occupations

18,57914,2614,3189976423555.44.58.2

    Production occupations

8,6816,0972,5834202221994.83.67.7

    Transportation and material-moving occupations

9,8988,1641,7345774201575.85.19.0

White, 16 years and older(2)

120,13565,38554,7504,5292,1722,3583.83.34.3

  Management, professional, and related occupations

49,27724,17625,1016452863591.31.21.4

   Management, business, and financial operations occupations

21,23312,0269,207213126871.01.00.9

   Professional and related occupations

28,04412,14915,8954321602721.51.31.7

 Service occupations

18,6348,16810,4671,5705111,0598.46.310.1

 Sales and office occupations

25,93110,32715,6049322716613.62.64.2

   Sales and related occupations

12,4176,5385,8795531753784.52.76.4

    Office and administrative support occupations

13,5143,7889,725378962822.82.52.9

  Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations

12,44011,805635720653675.85.510.6

   Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

1,0718052669657399.07.114.6

    Construction and extraction occupations

7,1846,969215492466266.96.712.1

    Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

4,1844,03115313213023.23.21.4

  Production, transportation, and material-moving occupations

13,79010,8502,9406634502124.84.17.2

    Production occupations

6,6244,8621,7632531441093.83.06.2

    Transportation and material-moving occupations

7,1655,9881,1774093061045.75.18.8

Black or African American, 16 years and older(2)

18,8738,83310,0401,3574179407.24.79.4

  Management, professional, and related occupations

5,9342,2583,676142341082.41.52.9

   Management, business, and financial operations occupations

2,1299431,186275221.30.51.9

   Professional and related occupations

3,8061,3162,49011529863.02.23.4

 Service occupations

4,5671,8352,73255612742912.26.915.7

 Sales and office occupations

4,1811,5102,671368862828.85.710.6

   Sales and related occupations

1,6576869712285417413.87.917.9

    Office and administrative support occupations

2,5258241,700140321085.53.86.4

  Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations

1,0821,013697159136.65.8-

   Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

341419936---

    Construction and extraction occupations

58257110423937.26.9-

    Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

46742839201644.33.8-

  Production, transportation, and material-moving occupations

3,0882,2058842181111067.05.112.0

    Production occupations

1,19472147311040709.25.614.7

    Transportation and material-moving occupations

1,8941,48441110771365.74.88.9

Asian, 16 years and older(2)

9,6535,1754,4792751641122.93.22.5

  Management, professional, and related occupations

5,1222,8202,3016147141.21.70.6

   Management, business, and financial operations occupations

1,726933792201821.22.00.2

   Professional and related occupations

3,3961,8871,5094129121.21.50.8

 Service occupations

1,5506169349842576.36.86.1

 Sales and office occupations

1,6397059334116252.52.22.7

   Sales and related occupations

8364433933012183.62.74.6

    Office and administrative support occupations

80226254011471.31.41.3

  Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations

36133328201825.55.4-

   Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

392020312---

    Construction and extraction occupations

16215661515-9.39.6-

    Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

160157322-1.31.3-

  Production, transportation, and material-moving occupations

9816982825541145.65.94.8

    Production occupations

507290217201283.94.13.5

    Transportation and material-moving occupations

47440965352967.57.2-

Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, 16 years and older(2)

26,20514,99811,2072,0191,0259947.76.88.9

  Management, professional, and related occupations

5,9392,8153,12416265972.72.33.1

   Management, business, and financial operations occupations

2,4491,3381,1113319141.31.41.3

   Professional and related occupations

3,4901,4772,01312946833.73.14.1

 Service occupations

6,1252,7143,41173723650112.08.714.7

 Sales and office occupations

5,3252,0493,276320772436.03.77.4

   Sales and related occupations

2,3921,1041,289195481478.24.311.4

    Office and administrative support occupations

2,9329461,98712429954.23.14.8

  Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations

4,4074,1552524654293610.610.314.4

   Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

52737215661332811.69.017.9

    Construction and extraction occupations

2,8842,81668336330611.711.7-

    Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

99596728686626.86.8-

  Production, transportation, and material-moving occupations

4,3983,2531,1453352191177.66.710.2

    Production occupations

2,0791,35372614981677.26.09.3

    Transportation and material-moving occupations

2,3191,900419187137498.17.211.8

(1)Number below the poverty level as a percent 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 includes 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, Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) of the Current Population Survey (CPS).

(1)Number below the poverty level as a percent 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 includes 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, Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) of the Current Population Survey (CPS).

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, 2017 (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, 2017 (Numbers in thousands)
CharacteristicTotal familiesAt or above poverty levelBelow poverty levelRate(1)
 
 
 
 
 

Total primary families

67,58863,7343,8545.7

  With related children under 18 years

34,75931,5473,2129.2

  Without children

32,82932,1876422.0

  With one member in the labor force

29,21225,8033,41011.7

  With two or more members in the labor force

38,37637,9324441.2

    With two members

31,79231,3724201.3

    With three or more members

6,5846,560240.4

Married-couple families(2)

49,94548,4221,5233.0

  With related children under 18 years

24,27523,0631,2125.0

  Without children

25,67025,3593111.2

  With one member in the labor force

17,49716,2531,2437.1

    Husband

12,46311,4899737.8

    Wife

4,3264,1002265.2

    Relative

708664446.2

  With two or more members in the labor force

32,44832,1692800.9

    With two members

27,21026,9422681.0

    With three or more members

5,2395,227120.2

Families maintained by women(3)

12,14010,1991,94116.0

  With related children under 18 years

7,6655,9511,71422.4

  Without children

4,4744,2472275.1

  With one member in the labor force

8,3686,5671,80121.5

    Householder

6,7345,1701,56423.2

    Relative

1,6341,39723614.5

  With two or more members in the labor force

3,7723,6311403.7

Families maintained by men(3)

5,5035,1143907.1

  With related children under 18 years

2,8192,53328610.1

  Without children

2,6852,5811043.9

  With one member in the labor force

3,3482,98236610.9

    Householder

2,7442,46527910.2

    Relative

6035178614.3

  With two or more members in the labor force

2,1562,132241.1

(1)Number below the poverty level as a percent 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, Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) of the Current Population Survey (CPS).

(1)Number below the poverty level as a percent 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, Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) of the Current Population Survey (CPS).

Table 6. People in families and unrelated individuals: poverty status and work experience, 2017 (Numbers in thousands)
Table 6. People in families and unrelated individuals: poverty status and work experience, 2017 (Numbers in thousands)
Poverty status and work experienceTotalIn married-couple families(1)In families maintained by women(2)In families maintained by men(2)Unrelated individuals
HusbandsWivesRelated children under 18 yearsOther relativesHouseholderRelated children under 18 yearsOther relativesHouseholderRelated children under 18 yearsOther relatives
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Total

All people

257,09760,55061,1865,66322,03215,4102,20214,7926,3946626,91061,297

With labor force activity

167,53845,46537,3551,49714,06210,6684749,0674,9501734,39039,438

1 to 26 weeks

12,7761,5122,6268272,5266602691,097281964032,479

27 weeks or more

154,76243,95334,72967111,53610,0082057,9694,668773,98736,959

With no labor force activity

89,55915,08523,8324,1657,9704,7411,7285,7251,4444892,52021,859

At or above poverty level

All people

228,96357,56458,1835,32121,21711,4531,51612,6185,6045676,33648,583

With labor force activity

158,19544,03836,6761,45613,8718,6423638,4284,5561594,22035,785

1 to 26 weeks

10,3791,3252,4177952,460318199886189853561,350

27 weeks or more

147,81642,71434,25966111,4118,3241647,5424,367753,86434,435

With no labor force activity

70,76813,52521,5073,8657,3462,8111,1534,1911,0484082,11612,798

Below poverty level

All people

28,1342,9863,0033418153,9576862,1747909457412,714

With labor force activity

9,3431,426678411902,027111639394131703,652

1 to 26 weeks

2,3971872093266342702119211471,129

27 weeks or more

6,9461,23946991241,6844142730221232,524

With no labor force activity

18,7911,5602,3253006241,9305751,535396814049,062

Rate(3)

All people

10.94.94.96.03.725.731.114.712.414.38.320.7

With labor force activity

5.63.11.82.81.419.023.47.08.07.73.99.3

1 to 26 weeks

18.812.48.03.92.651.925.919.332.811.611.745.5

27 weeks or more

4.52.81.41.41.116.820.15.46.52.93.16.8

With no labor force activity

21.010.39.87.27.840.733.326.827.416.616.041.5

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

(2)No opposite-sex spouse present.

(3)Number below the poverty level as a percent of the total in the labor force for 27 weeks or more who worked during the year.

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

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

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

(2)No opposite-sex spouse present.

(3)Number below the poverty level as a percent of the total in the labor force for 27 weeks or more who worked during the year.

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

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

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, 2017 (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, 2017 (Numbers in thousands)
CharacteristicTotalAt or above poverty levelBelow poverty levelRate(1)
 
 
 
 
 

Age and gender

Total unrelated individuals

36,95934,4352,5246.8

16 to 19 years

41328512730.9

20 to 24 years

4,3603,72863214.5

25 to 64 years

29,30227,5881,7145.8

65 years and older

2,8852,834511.8

Men

20,20618,9451,2616.2

Women

16,75315,4901,2637.5

Race and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity

White

28,48226,7171,7656.2

Men

15,76014,8628985.7

Women

12,72211,8558676.8

Black or African American

5,4324,9125209.6

Men

2,7932,5482458.8

Women

2,6392,36427510.4

Asian

1,7621,681824.6

Men

971934373.8

Women

792747455.7

Hispanic or Latino ethnicity

5,0304,5314999.9

Men

3,1982,9282708.4

Women

1,8321,60322912.5

Living arrangement

Living alone

18,50317,5219825.3

Living with others

18,45616,9151,5418.4

(1)Number below the poverty level as percent 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, Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) of the Current Population Survey (CPS).

(1)Number below the poverty level as percent 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, Annual Social and Economic Supplement (ASEC) of the Current Population Survey (CPS).

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, 2017 (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, 2017 (Numbers in thousands)
Labor market problemsTotalAt or above poverty levelBelow poverty levelRate(1)
 
 
 
 
 

Total, full-time wage and salary workers

121,997118,6833,3142.7

No unemployment, involuntary part-time employment, or low earnings(2)

104,625103,9666590.6

Workers experiencing one labor market problem

  Unemployment only

5,0004,7202805.6

  Involuntary part-time employment only

2,6022,540612.4

  Low earnings only

6,9365,4511,48521.4

Workers experiencing multiple labor market problems

  Unemployment and involuntary part-time employment

8287428610.4

  Unemployment and low earnings

1,09765943839.9

  Involuntary part-time employment and low earnings

60040519532.5

  Unemployment, involuntary part-time employment, and low earnings

31019911135.7

Workers experiencing each labor market problem

  Unemployment (alone or with other problems)

7,2356,32091512.6

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

4,3403,88745310.4

  Low earnings (alone or with other problems)

8,9436,7142,22824.9

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

(2)The low-earnings threshold in 2017 was $360.78 per week.

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

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

(2)The low-earnings threshold in 2017 was $360.78 per week.

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

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 2018 are for the 2017 calendar year.

Estimates 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: 2017,” Current Population Reports, P60-263 (U.S. Census Bureau, September 2018), https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2018/demo/p60-263.pdf.

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

Upon request, the information in this report is 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 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 2017, the weighted average poverty threshold for a family of four was $25,094; for a family of nine or more people, the threshold was $50,681; and for one person (unrelated individual), it was $12,488. 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: 2017,” https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2018/demo/p60-263.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 2017, the low-earnings threshold was $360.78 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: 2017,” https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2018/demo/p60-263.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 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.

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. 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.