Working but Poor: Using the Supplemental Poverty Measure to Examine the Effects of the Safety Net on Poverty for Working Families

Laryssa Mykyta , U.S. Census Bureau

The past several years have seen steady employment growth, yet earnings have not kept pace. Although individuals in working families have lower poverty rates than their counterparts, nearly 26.8 million individuals (9.8 percent) living in working families were poor and an additional 40.3 million had incomes just above the poverty line (between 100 and 150 percent of their poverty threshold) using the Supplemental Poverty Measure. I use the 2018 Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement to examine supplemental poverty rates among working families and to identify factors – including safety net programs -- that contribute to or alleviate poverty. Preliminary findings suggest that while medical expenditures and child care costs contribute to poverty among working families, cash transfer programs (for example, social security and unemployment insurance) and noncash transfers (such as SNAP and housing subsidies) are vital in keeping working families out of poverty.

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 Presented in Session 8. Economy, Labor Force, Education, & Inequality