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Own Research: Working Poverty in the United States (2005-2013)


Picture Credits: Erich Ferdinand, Cropped Picture, Flickr

Situating own research on male, old-age working poverty in a broader context

Working poverty in the United States has many faces. More often than not it still has the face of a woman, the face of a person from an ethnic or racial minority or someone who left schooling after high school. But this hardly captures the diversity of people whose unifying characteristics are the struggle to get by until the next paycheck arrives and the fear of any unforeseen expenditures that could upend the budget for the month. Working poverty sits squarely, uncomfortably in the middle of America’s society – a recognition that dawns on some only because it now also more often than before has the face of White man.

Still, the fact that for every tenth person (or more depending on the measures chosen) in the entire population work doesn’t secure one’s living anymore doesn’t seem to have registered with most people. Working poverty is corroding the trust that for those whose bodies allow decent work pays for a decent living, that you are not reliant on the government to put food on the table or pay the rental bill.

Motivated by the relatively sparse research attention devoted specifically to male, old-age working poverty in the U.S. and its symbolic role in raising society-wide awareness about the problem of working poverty, I traced the evolution of working poverty rates in between 2005 and 2013. In times when federal low-income supports such as SNAP (food stamps), rental assistance and Medicaid are under siege, I further isolated the effect of government transfers on poverty rates. But before presenting some of my findings it is worthwhile to put its troubling snapshot of nine years into a broader perspective, both thematically and historically.Earlier this month, two independent research teams from published findings, which nicely set the stage.

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