NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Sixty Percent of Americans in Poverty Not Working

October 17, 2014

The Census Bureau recently released a report on income and poverty, making clear that Americans continue to struggle, despite the Great Recession having ended five years ago. In fact, many Americans were much better off in 2000 than they were in 2013. Robert Doar of the American Enterprise Institute lays out the facts regarding Americans' flat -- or falling -- incomes:

  • Median household income did not improve between 2012 and 2013. Adjusting for inflation, income is actually $4,000 less than it was in 2007 and $5,000 less than it was in 1999.
  • Poverty is up, two percentage points above its 2007 level and 3.2 percentage points above its level in 2000. For three years in a row, more than 45 million Americans have been in poverty.
  • The effect is especially pronounced among single-parent families. Just 9.5 percent of children in families of married couples were in poverty in 2013, compared to 46 percent of children in single parent families headed by the mother.

For black Americans, the situation is even worse:

  • The poverty rate for blacks is at 27.2 percent, 4.7 percentage points higher than it was in 2000.
  • Black household median income was $34,598 in 2013, lower than any other racial group and 13.8 percent ($6,000) below its 2000 level.

Americans need jobs, says Doar, explaining the link between poverty and employment:

  • Of those who work full time during a year, only 2.8 percent are in poverty.
  • More than 60 percent of Americans classified as being in poverty did not work even one full week in 2013.

America's welfare programs, he says, are not acting as "work supports" for those in low-wage jobs, rather as replacement income for those not participating in the labor force.

Source: Robert Doar, "Where's the outrage?" American Enterprise Institute, October 14, 2014. 


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