April 2019 Report 1079

A profile of the working poor, 2017

A profile of the working poor, 2017 image

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:

  • Full-time workers continued to be much less likely to be among the working poor than were part-time workers. Among persons in the labor force for 27 weeks or more, 2.9 percent of those usually employed full time were classified as working poor, compared with 10.9 percent of part-time workers. (See table 1.)

  • Women were more likely than men to be among the working poor. In addition, Blacks or African Americans and Hispanics or Latinos continued to be more than twice as likely as Whites and Asians to be among the working poor.(2) (See table 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 1.5 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher. (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 over four times as likely as those without children to live in poverty. Families maintained by women were more than 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, 2007–17 (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).

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.

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).

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)
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

167,538 154,762 141,425

  Did not work during the year

2,375 1,067 907

  Worked during the year

165,163 153,694 140,519

Usual full-time workers

132,784 128,271 120,513

Usual part-time workers

32,379 25,424 20,006

Involuntary part-time workers

6,144 5,282 4,446

Voluntary part-time workers

26,235 20,141 15,560

At or above poverty level

Total in the labor force

158,195 147,816 135,730

  Did not work during the year

1,529 661 551

  Worked during the year

156,666 147,155 135,178

Usual full-time workers

128,244 124,494 117,309

Usual part-time workers

28,422 22,661 17,869

Involuntary part-time workers

4,916 4,311 3,631

Voluntary part-time workers

23,506 18,350 14,238

Below poverty level

Total in the labor force

9,343 6,946 5,696

  Did not work during the year

846 407 355

  Worked during the year

8,497 6,539 5,340

Usual full-time workers

4,540 3,777 3,204

Usual part-time workers

3,957 2,762 2,137

Involuntary part-time workers

1,228 971 816

Voluntary part-time workers

2,729 1,791 1,321

Rate(1)

Total in the labor force

5.6 4.5 4.0

  Did not work during the year

35.6 38.1 39.2

  Worked during the year

5.1 4.3 3.8

Usual full-time workers

3.4 2.9 2.7

Usual part-time workers

12.2 10.9 10.7

Involuntary part-time workers

20.0 18.4 18.3

Voluntary part-time workers

10.4 8.9 8.5

(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).

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 gender Total Below poverty level Race(1)
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

154,762 120,750 19,225 9,699 26,371 6,946 4,754 1,518 279 2,082 4.5 3.9 7.9 2.9 7.9

16 to 19 years

3,620 2,851 462 119 769 305 196 74 5 89 8.4 6.9 16.1 4.3 11.6

20 to 24 years

13,170 9,883 1,951 591 2,890 1,115 672 325 27 241 8.5 6.8 16.6 4.6 8.3

25 to 34 years

35,065 26,235 4,958 2,420 6,968 1,997 1,324 510 65 603 5.7 5.0 10.3 2.7 8.7

35 to 44 years

32,662 24,740 4,271 2,519 6,539 1,646 1,170 309 68 645 5.0 4.7 7.2 2.7 9.9

45 to 54 years

32,769 25,812 3,930 2,136 5,354 1,023 744 166 59 329 3.1 2.9 4.2 2.8 6.1

55 to 64 years

27,190 22,359 2,845 1,458 3,061 709 533 108 51 147 2.6 2.4 3.8 3.5 4.8

65 years and older

10,286 8,870 808 455 791 152 116 27 4 27 1.5 1.3 3.3 0.9 3.4

Men, 16 years and older

82,562 65,721 9,047 5,202 15,085 3,132 2,291 503 166 1,051 3.8 3.5 5.6 3.2 7.0

16 to 19 years

1,772 1,397 212 67 377 114 74 25 3 42 6.4 5.3 11.6 - 11.1

20 to 24 years

6,842 5,193 965 317 1,592 475 292 119 16 109 6.9 5.6 12.3 5.0 6.8

25 to 34 years

18,987 14,509 2,366 1,349 4,038 824 614 126 44 290 4.3 4.2 5.3 3.3 7.2

35 to 44 years

17,740 13,788 2,003 1,366 3,837 787 602 107 38 352 4.4 4.4 5.3 2.8 9.2

45 to 54 years

17,230 13,889 1,799 1,100 3,048 496 363 76 35 165 2.9 2.6 4.2 3.2 5.4

55 to 64 years

14,182 11,829 1,330 764 1,735 363 287 41 27 83 2.6 2.4 3.1 3.6 4.8

65 years and older

5,810 5,116 371 240 458 74 58 10 2 9 1.3 1.1 2.6 0.9 2.0

Women, 16 years and older

72,199 55,030 10,178 4,497 11,286 3,814 2,463 1,015 113 1,032 5.3 4.5 10.0 2.5 9.1

16 to 19 years

1,848 1,454 250 52 392 191 122 50 2 47 10.3 8.4 19.9 - 12.1

20 to 24 years

6,328 4,690 986 274 1,298 640 379 205 11 132 10.1 8.1 20.8 4.1 10.2

25 to 34 years

16,078 11,726 2,591 1,072 2,930 1,173 710 384 21 313 7.3 6.1 14.8 1.9 10.7

35 to 44 years

14,922 10,952 2,268 1,154 2,702 859 567 202 30 293 5.8 5.2 8.9 2.6 10.8

45 to 54 years

15,539 11,923 2,131 1,036 2,306 527 381 90 24 164 3.4 3.2 4.2 2.3 7.1

55 to 64 years

13,008 10,530 1,515 695 1,326 347 245 67 23 64 2.7 2.3 4.4 3.3 4.9

65 years and older

4,476 3,755 437 215 332 78 58 17 2 18 1.7 1.6 3.9 0.9 5.4

(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).

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 ethnicity Total Men Women Below poverty level Rate(1)
Total Men Women Total Men Women

Total, 16 years and older

154,762 82,562 72,199 6,946 3,132 3,814 4.5 3.8 5.3

 Less than a high school diploma

12,013 7,488 4,525 1,640 925 715 13.7 12.4 15.8

    Less than 1 year of high school

3,792 2,496 1,296 548 351 197 14.4 14.0 15.2

    1–3 years of high school

6,398 3,822 2,576 901 457 444 14.1 12.0 17.2

    4 years of high school, no diploma

1,823 1,169 654 192 117 75 10.5 10.0 11.4

 High school graduates, no college(2)

40,550 24,017 16,534 2,531 1,076 1,455 6.2 4.5 8.8

  Some college or associate's degree

43,673 21,789 21,885 1,888 690 1,198 4.3 3.2 5.5

    Some college, no degree

27,236 14,142 13,094 1,370 534 836 5.0 3.8 6.4

    Associate's degree

16,437 7,647 8,790 518 156 362 3.2 2.0 4.1

 Bachelor's degree and higher(3)

58,524 29,269 29,255 886 441 445 1.5 1.5 1.5

White, 16 years and older

120,750 65,721 55,030 4,754 2,291 2,463 3.9 3.5 4.5

 Less than a high school diploma

9,482 6,164 3,318 1,185 715 471 12.5 11.6 14.2

    Less than 1 year of high school

3,150 2,170 980 442 291 150 14.0 13.4 15.3

    1–3 years of high school

4,992 3,097 1,895 614 328 286 12.3 10.6 15.1

    4 years of high school, no diploma

1,339 896 443 130 95 34 9.7 10.6 7.8

 High school graduates, no college(2)

31,517 19,023 12,493 1,697 775 922 5.4 4.1 7.4

  Some college or associate's degree

33,806 17,287 16,519 1,216 473 743 3.6 2.7 4.5

    Some college, no degree

20,737 11,051 9,686 863 352 511 4.2 3.2 5.3

    Associate's degree

13,069 6,236 6,833 353 121 232 2.7 1.9 3.4

 Bachelor's degree and higher(3)

45,946 23,247 22,699 655 328 327 1.4 1.4 1.4

Black or African American, 16 years and older

19,225 9,047 10,178 1,518 503 1,015 7.9 5.6 10.0

 Less than a high school diploma

1,344 676 668 296 121 174 22.0 17.9 26.1

    Less than 1 year of high school

220 94 126 36 14 22 16.4 15.0 17.5

    1–3 years of high school

801 413 388 214 92 123 26.8 22.3 31.6

    4 years of high school, no diploma

323 169 154 45 15 30 14.0 9.0 19.4

 High school graduates, no college(2)

6,026 3,284 2,742 609 185 424 10.1 5.6 15.4

  Some college or associate's degree

6,402 2,808 3,595 489 145 343 7.6 5.2 9.5

    Some college, no degree

4,283 1,977 2,306 380 126 254 8.9 6.4 11.0

    Associate's degree

2,119 831 1,288 109 19 89 5.1 2.3 6.9

 Bachelor's degree and higher(3)

5,453 2,279 3,174 124 51 74 2.3 2.2 2.3

Asian, 16 years and older

9,699 5,202 4,497 279 166 113 2.9 3.2 2.5

 Less than a high school diploma

564 279 285 59 34 25 10.4 12.2 8.6

    Less than 1 year of high school

236 109 127 38 22 16 16.1 20.4 12.5

    1–3 years of high school

238 114 124 16 8 8 6.7 7.2 6.2

    4 years of high school, no diploma

91 56 35 5 4 1 5.3 - -

 High school graduates, no college(2)

1,551 870 681 86 52 34 5.6 6.0 5.1

  Some college or associate's degree

1,727 872 855 56 28 28 3.3 3.2 3.3

    Some college, no degree

1,041 551 490 33 19 14 3.2 3.5 2.8

    Associate's degree

687 321 365 23 9 14 3.4 2.8 3.9

 Bachelor's degree and higher(3)

5,857 3,181 2,676 78 52 26 1.3 1.6 1.0

Hispanic or Latino ethnicity, 16 years and older

26,371 15,085 11,286 2,082 1,051 1,032 7.9 7.0 9.1

 Less than a high school diploma

5,987 4,008 1,979 893 553 340 14.9 13.8 17.2

    Less than 1 year of high school

2,851 1,954 897 405 260 145 14.2 13.3 16.2

    1–3 years of high school

2,428 1,542 887 401 225 177 16.5 14.6 20.0

    4 years of high school, no diploma

708 513 195 87 69 18 12.3 13.5 9.3

 High school graduates, no college(2)

8,411 5,164 3,247 676 322 354 8.0 6.2 10.9

  Some college or associate's degree

7,003 3,512 3,491 368 112 256 5.3 3.2 7.3

    Some college, no degree

4,695 2,448 2,246 277 85 191 5.9 3.5 8.5

    Associate's degree

2,309 1,064 1,244 91 27 64 4.0 2.5 5.2

 Bachelor's degree and higher(3)

4,970 2,401 2,569 145 63 82 2.9 2.6 3.2

(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).

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 ethnicity Total Men Women Below poverty level Rate(1)
Total Men Women Total Men Women

Total, 16 years and older(2)

153,694 81,945 71,749 6,539 2,911 3,628 4.3 3.6 5.1

  Management, professional, and related occupations

61,894 29,947 31,948 892 387 505 1.4 1.3 1.6

   Management, business, and financial operations occupations

25,723 14,205 11,518 267 156 111 1.0 1.1 1.0

   Professional and related occupations

36,171 15,742 20,429 625 232 394 1.7 1.5 1.9

 Service occupations

25,902 11,160 14,742 2,341 713 1,628 9.0 6.4 11.0

 Sales and office occupations

32,901 12,929 19,972 1,446 394 1,052 4.4 3.0 5.3

   Sales and related occupations

15,418 7,885 7,534 880 253 627 5.7 3.2 8.3

    Office and administrative support occupations

17,482 5,044 12,438 566 141 425 3.2 2.8 3.4

  Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations

14,332 13,574 758 860 775 85 6.0 5.7 11.2

   Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

1,181 864 317 115 66 49 9.7 7.7 15.4

    Construction and extraction occupations

8,220 7,982 238 584 553 31 7.1 6.9 12.8

    Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

4,931 4,728 203 161 155 6 3.3 3.3 2.9

  Production, transportation, and material-moving occupations

18,579 14,261 4,318 997 642 355 5.4 4.5 8.2

    Production occupations

8,681 6,097 2,583 420 222 199 4.8 3.6 7.7

    Transportation and material-moving occupations

9,898 8,164 1,734 577 420 157 5.8 5.1 9.0

White, 16 years and older(2)

120,135 65,385 54,750 4,529 2,172 2,358 3.8 3.3 4.3

  Management, professional, and related occupations

49,277 24,176 25,101 645 286 359 1.3 1.2 1.4

   Management, business, and financial operations occupations

21,233 12,026 9,207 213 126 87 1.0 1.0 0.9

   Professional and related occupations

28,044 12,149 15,895 432 160 272 1.5 1.3 1.7

 Service occupations

18,634 8,168 10,467 1,570 511 1,059 8.4 6.3 10.1

 Sales and office occupations

25,931 10,327 15,604 932 271 661 3.6 2.6 4.2

   Sales and related occupations

12,417 6,538 5,879 553 175 378 4.5 2.7 6.4

    Office and administrative support occupations

13,514 3,788 9,725 378 96 282 2.8 2.5 2.9

  Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations

12,440 11,805 635 720 653 67 5.8 5.5 10.6

   Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

1,071 805 266 96 57 39 9.0 7.1 14.6

    Construction and extraction occupations

7,184 6,969 215 492 466 26 6.9 6.7 12.1

    Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

4,184 4,031 153 132 130 2 3.2 3.2 1.4

  Production, transportation, and material-moving occupations

13,790 10,850 2,940 663 450 212 4.8 4.1 7.2

    Production occupations

6,624 4,862 1,763 253 144 109 3.8 3.0 6.2

    Transportation and material-moving occupations

7,165 5,988 1,177 409 306 104 5.7 5.1 8.8

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

18,873 8,833 10,040 1,357 417 940 7.2 4.7 9.4

  Management, professional, and related occupations

5,934 2,258 3,676 142 34 108 2.4 1.5 2.9

   Management, business, and financial operations occupations

2,129 943 1,186 27 5 22 1.3 0.5 1.9

   Professional and related occupations

3,806 1,316 2,490 115 29 86 3.0 2.2 3.4

 Service occupations

4,567 1,835 2,732 556 127 429 12.2 6.9 15.7

 Sales and office occupations

4,181 1,510 2,671 368 86 282 8.8 5.7 10.6

   Sales and related occupations

1,657 686 971 228 54 174 13.8 7.9 17.9

    Office and administrative support occupations

2,525 824 1,700 140 32 108 5.5 3.8 6.4

  Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations

1,082 1,013 69 71 59 13 6.6 5.8 -

   Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

34 14 19 9 3 6 - - -

    Construction and extraction occupations

582 571 10 42 39 3 7.2 6.9 -

    Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

467 428 39 20 16 4 4.3 3.8 -

  Production, transportation, and material-moving occupations

3,088 2,205 884 218 111 106 7.0 5.1 12.0

    Production occupations

1,194 721 473 110 40 70 9.2 5.6 14.7

    Transportation and material-moving occupations

1,894 1,484 411 107 71 36 5.7 4.8 8.9

Asian, 16 years and older(2)

9,653 5,175 4,479 275 164 112 2.9 3.2 2.5

  Management, professional, and related occupations

5,122 2,820 2,301 61 47 14 1.2 1.7 0.6

   Management, business, and financial operations occupations

1,726 933 792 20 18 2 1.2 2.0 0.2

   Professional and related occupations

3,396 1,887 1,509 41 29 12 1.2 1.5 0.8

 Service occupations

1,550 616 934 98 42 57 6.3 6.8 6.1

 Sales and office occupations

1,639 705 933 41 16 25 2.5 2.2 2.7

   Sales and related occupations

836 443 393 30 12 18 3.6 2.7 4.6

    Office and administrative support occupations

802 262 540 11 4 7 1.3 1.4 1.3

  Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations

361 333 28 20 18 2 5.5 5.4 -

   Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

39 20 20 3 1 2 - - -

    Construction and extraction occupations

162 156 6 15 15 - 9.3 9.6 -

    Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

160 157 3 2 2 - 1.3 1.3 -

  Production, transportation, and material-moving occupations

981 698 282 55 41 14 5.6 5.9 4.8

    Production occupations

507 290 217 20 12 8 3.9 4.1 3.5

    Transportation and material-moving occupations

474 409 65 35 29 6 7.5 7.2 -

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

26,205 14,998 11,207 2,019 1,025 994 7.7 6.8 8.9

  Management, professional, and related occupations

5,939 2,815 3,124 162 65 97 2.7 2.3 3.1

   Management, business, and financial operations occupations

2,449 1,338 1,111 33 19 14 1.3 1.4 1.3

   Professional and related occupations

3,490 1,477 2,013 129 46 83 3.7 3.1 4.1

 Service occupations

6,125 2,714 3,411 737 236 501 12.0 8.7 14.7

 Sales and office occupations

5,325 2,049 3,276 320 77 243 6.0 3.7 7.4

   Sales and related occupations

2,392 1,104 1,289 195 48 147 8.2 4.3 11.4

    Office and administrative support occupations

2,932 946 1,987 124 29 95 4.2 3.1 4.8

  Natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations

4,407 4,155 252 465 429 36 10.6 10.3 14.4

   Farming, fishing, and forestry occupations

527 372 156 61 33 28 11.6 9.0 17.9

    Construction and extraction occupations

2,884 2,816 68 336 330 6 11.7 11.7 -

    Installation, maintenance, and repair occupations

995 967 28 68 66 2 6.8 6.8 -

  Production, transportation, and material-moving occupations

4,398 3,253 1,145 335 219 117 7.6 6.7 10.2

    Production occupations

2,079 1,353 726 149 81 67 7.2 6.0 9.3

    Transportation and material-moving occupations

2,319 1,900 419 187 137 49 8.1 7.2 11.8

(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).

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)
Characteristic Total families At or above poverty level Below poverty level Rate(1)

Total primary families

67,588 63,734 3,854 5.7

  With related children under 18 years

34,759 31,547 3,212 9.2

  Without children

32,829 32,187 642 2.0

  With one member in the labor force

29,212 25,803 3,410 11.7

  With two or more members in the labor force

38,376 37,932 444 1.2

    With two members

31,792 31,372 420 1.3

    With three or more members

6,584 6,560 24 0.4

Married-couple families(2)

49,945 48,422 1,523 3.0

  With related children under 18 years

24,275 23,063 1,212 5.0

  Without children

25,670 25,359 311 1.2

  With one member in the labor force

17,497 16,253 1,243 7.1

    Husband

12,463 11,489 973 7.8

    Wife

4,326 4,100 226 5.2

    Relative

708 664 44 6.2

  With two or more members in the labor force

32,448 32,169 280 0.9

    With two members

27,210 26,942 268 1.0

    With three or more members

5,239 5,227 12 0.2

Families maintained by women(3)

12,140 10,199 1,941 16.0

  With related children under 18 years

7,665 5,951 1,714 22.4

  Without children

4,474 4,247 227 5.1

  With one member in the labor force

8,368 6,567 1,801 21.5

    Householder

6,734 5,170 1,564 23.2

    Relative

1,634 1,397 236 14.5

  With two or more members in the labor force

3,772 3,631 140 3.7

Families maintained by men(3)

5,503 5,114 390 7.1

  With related children under 18 years

2,819 2,533 286 10.1

  Without children

2,685 2,581 104 3.9

  With one member in the labor force

3,348 2,982 366 10.9

    Householder

2,744 2,465 279 10.2

    Relative

603 517 86 14.3

  With two or more members in the labor force

2,156 2,132 24 1.1

(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).

Table 6. People in families and unrelated individuals: poverty status and work experience, 2017 (Numbers in thousands)
Poverty status and work experience Total In married-couple families(1) In families maintained by women(2) In families maintained by men(2) 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

257,097 60,550 61,186 5,663 22,032 15,410 2,202 14,792 6,394 662 6,910 61,297

With labor force activity

167,538 45,465 37,355 1,497 14,062 10,668 474 9,067 4,950 173 4,390 39,438

1 to 26 weeks

12,776 1,512 2,626 827 2,526 660 269 1,097 281 96 403 2,479

27 weeks or more

154,762 43,953 34,729 671 11,536 10,008 205 7,969 4,668 77 3,987 36,959

With no labor force activity

89,559 15,085 23,832 4,165 7,970 4,741 1,728 5,725 1,444 489 2,520 21,859

At or above poverty level

All people

228,963 57,564 58,183 5,321 21,217 11,453 1,516 12,618 5,604 567 6,336 48,583

With labor force activity

158,195 44,038 36,676 1,456 13,871 8,642 363 8,428 4,556 159 4,220 35,785

1 to 26 weeks

10,379 1,325 2,417 795 2,460 318 199 886 189 85 356 1,350

27 weeks or more

147,816 42,714 34,259 661 11,411 8,324 164 7,542 4,367 75 3,864 34,435

With no labor force activity

70,768 13,525 21,507 3,865 7,346 2,811 1,153 4,191 1,048 408 2,116 12,798

Below poverty level

All people

28,134 2,986 3,003 341 815 3,957 686 2,174 790 94 574 12,714

With labor force activity

9,343 1,426 678 41 190 2,027 111 639 394 13 170 3,652

1 to 26 weeks

2,397 187 209 32 66 342 70 211 92 11 47 1,129

27 weeks or more

6,946 1,239 469 9 124 1,684 41 427 302 2 123 2,524

With no labor force activity

18,791 1,560 2,325 300 624 1,930 575 1,535 396 81 404 9,062

Rate(3)

All people

10.9 4.9 4.9 6.0 3.7 25.7 31.1 14.7 12.4 14.3 8.3 20.7

With labor force activity

5.6 3.1 1.8 2.8 1.4 19.0 23.4 7.0 8.0 7.7 3.9 9.3

1 to 26 weeks

18.8 12.4 8.0 3.9 2.6 51.9 25.9 19.3 32.8 11.6 11.7 45.5

27 weeks or more

4.5 2.8 1.4 1.4 1.1 16.8 20.1 5.4 6.5 2.9 3.1 6.8

With no labor force activity

21.0 10.3 9.8 7.2 7.8 40.7 33.3 26.8 27.4 16.6 16.0 41.5

(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).

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)
Characteristic Total At or above poverty level Below poverty level Rate(1)

Age and gender

Total unrelated individuals

36,959 34,435 2,524 6.8

16 to 19 years

413 285 127 30.9

20 to 24 years

4,360 3,728 632 14.5

25 to 64 years

29,302 27,588 1,714 5.8

65 years and older

2,885 2,834 51 1.8

Men

20,206 18,945 1,261 6.2

Women

16,753 15,490 1,263 7.5

Race and Hispanic or Latino ethnicity

White

28,482 26,717 1,765 6.2

Men

15,760 14,862 898 5.7

Women

12,722 11,855 867 6.8

Black or African American

5,432 4,912 520 9.6

Men

2,793 2,548 245 8.8

Women

2,639 2,364 275 10.4

Asian

1,762 1,681 82 4.6

Men

971 934 37 3.8

Women

792 747 45 5.7

Hispanic or Latino ethnicity

5,030 4,531 499 9.9

Men

3,198 2,928 270 8.4

Women

1,832 1,603 229 12.5

Living arrangement

Living alone

18,503 17,521 982 5.3

Living with others

18,456 16,915 1,541 8.4

(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).

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 problems Total At or above poverty level Below poverty level Rate(1)

Total, full-time wage and salary workers

121,997 118,683 3,314 2.7

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

104,625 103,966 659 0.6

Workers experiencing one labor market problem

  Unemployment only

5,000 4,720 280 5.6

  Involuntary part-time employment only

2,602 2,540 61 2.4

  Low earnings only

6,936 5,451 1,485 21.4

Workers experiencing multiple labor market problems

  Unemployment and involuntary part-time employment

828 742 86 10.4

  Unemployment and low earnings

1,097 659 438 39.9

  Involuntary part-time employment and low earnings

600 405 195 32.5

  Unemployment, involuntary part-time employment, and low earnings

310 199 111 35.7

Workers experiencing each labor market problem

  Unemployment (alone or with other problems)

7,235 6,320 915 12.6

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

4,340 3,887 453 10.4

  Low earnings (alone or with other problems)

8,943 6,714 2,228 24.9

(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).

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.