The Public Interest

The working poverty trap

Ronald F. Ferguson

Winter 2005

IMAGINE working full-time, but nonetheless living in poverty. Hard as this may be for many of us to imagine, almost a quarter of the nation’s workforce in 2001 earned less than $8.70 an hour. Full time, full-year work at this wage placed a family of four very close to the official poverty line. Most workers with earnings in this range are among the 42 percent of American workers who have never attended college.

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