The working poor are defined as full-time workers ages 25-64 whose family income places them below the indicated federal poverty threshold based on their family size and composition. The federal poverty threshold in 2015 for a family of four with two children was about $24,000 per year (thus, 200% of the federal poverty threshold was about $48,000). All breakdowns except “Workers by poverty” describe the percentage of all workers (defined as those who worked at all during the year prior to the survey) ages 25-64 who are considered working poor. The “Full-time workers by poverty” breakdown focuses on full-time workers, rather than all workers, and describes the percentage of full-time workers ages 25-64 living below 100, 150, and 200 percent of the federal poverty threshold. Data for 2015 represent a 2011-2015 average, and data for 2010 represent a 2006-2010 average. Universe includes the civilian noninstitutional population ages 25-64 not living in group quarters who worked at all during the year prior to the survey. No data is reported for demographic subgroups with insufficient sample sizes. For more information, see the data and methods document. | National Equity Atlas Data & Methods: Technical Documentation
Percent working poor by race/ethnicity:
Is growth being broadly shared?
Why it matters
As the low-wage sector has grown, the share of adults who are working full-time jobs but still cannot make ends meet has increased, particularly among Latinos and other workers of color. The failure of even full-time work to pay family-supporting wages dampens the potential of millions of workers and our nation as a whole.
Grow an equitable economy: Policies to lift full-time workers out of poverty
- Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC), which are responsible for lifting millions of families and children out of poverty each year
- Raise the floor on low-wage work by increasing the minimum wage or enacting living-wage laws
- End wage theft and strengthen workers’ rights to organize
- Require paid sick days and fair scheduling
- Provide high-quality preschool for low-income children and increase access to affordable childcare
Washington DC’s EITC Lifts the Incomes of Low-Wage Workers
Tax policy is an important tool for reducing inequality and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) plays a major role in boosting incomes and lifting low-income working families out of poverty. 25 states, along with the District of Columbia, New York City, and Montgomery County offer their own EITCs. Washington, DC’s EITC is the most generous in the nation. It offers 40 percent of the federal credit (while some states offer as low as 10 percent), it is refundable (if the credit is larger than your tax obligation, you get it back in cash), and it was recently expanded to reach childless workers (workers without children as well as non-custodial parents), a large share of whom are not typically eligible. Learn more.