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Endless Grind – The Working Poor, Part 1

November 28, 2012

The working poor are those with one or more jobs whose combined income remains below the poverty level. For them, employment is a ceaseless grind – constant motion without any measurable progress.

In 2010, there were 10.5 million individuals counted among the working poor (7.2% of the labor force; 15.1% of all part-time employees)[i]. These are not insignificant numbers, and they only get worse as we dig more deeply.


“ ‘But the poor man had nothing, except one little ewe lamb which he had bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and with his children’ ” (2 Sam. 12: 3).

More than four times the number of working poor with children under age 18 live in poverty, than those without children. Women are more likely than men to fall into the category of working poor. These statistics derive, in part, from the fact that safe and affordable child care may be impossible to obtain in the inner city.

An unreliable grandparent or neighbor charged with watching young children can all too easily put the employment (or education) of a single parent in jeopardy, by generating absences or latenesses on the part of the wage earner.

When childcare is unavailable, children as young as 6 or 7 years may be left at home unsupervised while their mothers work.  This is not a matter of disregard for the children’s welfare. It is a Hobson’s choice, one of many such choices the poor are forced to make.


“ ‘And the men are shepherds, for their occupation has been to feed livestock…’ ” (Gen 46: 32).

Those in occupations which do not require high levels of education (and typically pay low wages) are more likely to be among the working poor:

“For example, 13.1 percent of service workers were classified as work­ing poor in 2010.  Indeed, service occupations, with 3.2 million working poor, accounted for nearly one-third of all those classi­fied as working poor.  Among those employed in natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations, 10.5 percent of work­ers were classified as working poor.  Within this occupation group, 19.5 percent of workers employed in farming, fishing, and forest­ry occupations and 12.8 percent of those in construction and ex­traction occupations were among the working poor…” [ii]

A high school diploma leads to a variety of dead end, minimum wage jobs. With the decline of manufacturing, the number of well-paid blue collar jobs has likewise declined.

Fraud against the poor is rampant, so job seekers must be on their guard. As an illustration, some “job applications” have nothing to do with jobs. Instead, scammers seek personal information for the sole purpose of identity theft. Others prey on potential employees by soliciting a fee from them.

Market Factors

“ ‘You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy…’ ” (Deut. 24: 14).

Three factors generally contribute toward employment at “starvation wages”. These are low salary, periods of unemployment, and involuntary part-time employment.  In 2010 – with the Great Recession said to have ended in June 2009 – 84% of the working poor normally employed full-time were still experiencing at least one of these three factors.

Not only have jobs been eliminated. A glut of potential employees in the marketplace has enabled employers to raise the qualifications for jobs previously held by those less educated and/or less experienced.

Housing and debt as related to the working poor will be discussed in Part 2 of this article.

[i] The statistics referenced in Parts 1 and 2 of this article were obtained by the US Census Bureau for the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

[ii] “A Profile of the Working Poor, 2010” with data from Current Population Survey.

READERS CAN FIND MY VIEWS ON ABUSE AND ABUSE-RELATED ISSUES AT ANNA WALDHERR A Voice Reclaimed, Surviving Child Abuse  http://www.avoicereclaimed

  1. Anna,
    As a newer follower of your work I am slowly reading through many of your older posts and am enjoying them immensely. It appears that when you post about specific subjects such as poverty and the plight of the poor,they garner little in the way of comments and I wonder why that is. I know we’re all busy, but still…

    Since you have such a heart for the disadvantaged I hope you continue to bring to light the seriousness of the situation,as I always learn something from your posts.

    • Thank you so much, Ron. This is a great encouragement to me. I’m very grateful to have come across your own writing, as well. I think longer posts can be daunting to readers, and statistics seen as dry. The magnitude of the problem is, however, enormous. The need is urgent. I struggle for new ways to convey that.

      • As someone who deals with statistics and trend analysis on a daily basis I understand what you mean. The secret is in drawing the reader in to know more about the subject matter. You definitely have that gift.

      • God bless you for your kindness, Ron.

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