Presenting The Working Poor Of America

Tyler Durden's picture

Much has been made of the slow but steady 'improvement' in the unemployment data we are treated to on a weekly and monthly basis from the hallowed eves of the BLS. Just as much has been written on the ugly under-belly of this apparent improvement with the work-force becoming dominated by older workers forced to stay in jobs for longer and an increasing downshift in the kind of jobs available and taken. To wit, Reuters cites a report from the The Working Poor Families Project that highlights the surprising levels of poverty so many Americans find themselves in. The number of low-income 'working' families has increased three straight years - and now stands at over 10.2million, with more than 46 million people living in low-income families. "Although many people are returning to work, they are often taking jobs with lower wages and less job security, compared with the middle-class jobs they held before the economic downturn," which means that nearly one in three working families in the United States is struggling to meet basic needs. Although they are often overlooked, the number of low-income working families has been increasing steadily, resulting in a shrinking middle class and challenging a fundamental assumption that in America, work pays - as we have pointed out before (at these levels, it simply doesn't thanks to the benefit availability).


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Ying-Yang's picture

Doesn't look like the "South shall Rise Again" does it?

ACP's picture

Interesting the closer you are to the border with Mexico, the more the poverty. I wonder why?

francis_sawyer's picture

The darker BLUE that graphic becomes as time goes by, the more LIKELY it becomes that the 'South' will rise again... You can take that to be bank [or 'gallows' as the case may be]...

trav777's picture
family/household Poverty guideline 1 $11,170 2 15,130 3 19,090 4 23,050 5 27,010 6 30,970 7 34,930 8 38,890

This map is 200% of poverty level.  So for a 4-person household, that's 46K...that's MORE than decent money in a lot of those states.  Plus you collect bennies.

madcows's picture

We spent 10 grand in just groceries last year, here in the northeast.  Good luck living off the remainder.  Especially when health insurance is about 7k, a cheap ass car payment is at least 3k a year, clothe the kids, etc...  Maybe 46 large goes a long way mississippi, but it sure doesn't get much in New England.

BooMushroom's picture

10k/yr = $833/mo = $192/wk.

Really? Easy enough to do, I'm sure, but I'm sure you have plenty of high end foods that you could do without. I'm not talking caviar or waygu, but most of us have resigned to have steak rarely if ever. Not saying that you shouldn't have those things, but they may not strictly be necessities.

clymer's picture

I'm in MA. Heating oil has been a kick in the nuts the past few years, I buy grapple loads of tree-length hardwaood for about 80$  /cord and start cutting / splitting in May, burn between 5 and 7 cords in the winter, saves me $2000 a year (and forces me to exercise by rolling fucking ungodly heavy logs onto the splitter)

Midas's picture


I've been wondering why the northeast still uses heating oil.  I don't think any other region uses it to the same extent.  Is there a reason why people don't use heat pumps?  Is heating oil even less than electricity?

Joe Davola's picture

Electricity more expensive and heat pumps won't warm up the home much when the daily high might not exceed 20.  Nat gas is the way to go.

LawsofPhysics's picture

Another moron who doesn't understand how something works.  A heat pump exchanges heat from one "sink" to another.  They are less than useless when the temperature of the external "sink" is at or below fucking zero. 

Yes, there really are experts who spend their entire lives designing and building such things.  maybe you should pick up a fucking book once in a while.

cynicalskeptic's picture

MY house in NY burbs cost 5 times what my brother in NC paid. After 20 years of renovations. its still not done - he bought brand new).  MY taxes are - literally - 30 times his (income and property).  But then he's working shifts in a factory (and lucky to have that job) and his kids are dumb as rocks courtesy of a really bad public education system.  But then he's done well for a HS education that was mainly 6 packs in the parking lot and 2 years of tech school.

Sometimes you have to pay the price to live somewhere that still has decent paying jobs, tolerable amenities and decent public services.  The US really is devolviong into two very different nations.   Most of my relatives in 'flyover' America have houses worth less than $200,000 and are earning well under $100,000.  They 'get by' - but most barely do so.  Few have any real education or skills and if their kids are our future we're screwed.    Lots of divorces and single mothers living with parents.  Having too many kids too early and not staying married - a sure path to poverty.  My wife and I were considered 'strange' for waiting a decade to have kids.  Saved like mad and worked our tails off.  Going to a good colelge and working hard was somehow 'showing off' to those proud of their blue collar life - 'aspirational Republicans' who think 'only poor people are Democrats.' 

I don't buy into the simplistic political duopoly BS but am more than happy to thank them for keeping my taxes low for so long - gives me more direct control on how to spend my charitable dollars.  I work harder here than they ever have but consider it worth the price.  Nice house and 'culture' means more than NASCAR. We may have waited a decade to take vacations but we've seen most fot he country now.  And weekends in NY offer far more diversions than the same time spent in strip mall America.   Even if the schools here could be better, they're light years ahead of those elsewhere.  Mhose at the top of their classes here are brilliant, are actually learning more than most and are very likely to change the world.  They are very aware of the world they live in and care about it - instead of passively accepting at face value what is being fed to the masses on Fox.  My kids - second gen to go to college - are going to the best schools in the nation, the world.  They will have a future no matter what happens.  My relatives are in hock to put their kids through mediocre State colleges - most ercent grads are still looking for jobs if not workign as an Assistant Manager in some fast food place.

hooligan2009's picture

good effort..many more smiles to you in the future..(you are kind of Spartacus)

moonstears's picture

Born in NC, we took "spelling". Guess not in your neck of the woods. Just sayin'.

Larry Dallas's picture

@ cynicalskeptic +1000 on this post. Love it. Couldn't have said it better.

MeBizarro's picture

The only thing I would disagree on is the part about mediocre state colleges.  Unless you get into an Ivy or a select private school (e.g., Harvey Mudd, MIT, Cal Poly), it generally makes sense to avoid as much debt as possible for a BA, graduate in 4 years with a killer GPA and have a specific career path in mind, and figure out what grad school/profession you want to do along with what entry-level experience/internships will help you get there. 

Your dead right though about a lot of rural America.   Its very true of where I grew up in Central PA when I go back to visit my parents (who will move as soon as my 99-year old grandmother passes).  Those who had kids early or didn't work to establish themselves before 30 are the one who are in real trouble going ahead forward. 


NumNutt's picture

I don't suppose your "good colelge" ever learned you about spell check did it?  Just because a person does not live in a major metropolitan area does not mean they are dumb as rocks.  Actually most of the people I have met from "the city" are helpless idiots that freak out because there is nobody to change their tire for them. You paid 5 times for a fixer upper house, as compared to what your brother paid for a new house. I don't know about anyone else but I can plainly see the idiot in this comparison.

Larry Dallas's picture

NumNutt: People choose to live in those areas because of access to better education, higher paying jobs (but you could argue they pay more income tax) more sophisticated neighbors and the hopes that their children will be better off socializing with folks as sophisticated or even more so than them. New York is the melting pot, not Topeka, Kansas.

That is why the real estate costs more.

In other words, they won't be influenced by farmers, who have no drive, no ambition, marry a girl with many tattoos and probably a kid because of poor self-esteem and bad mating choices and well in debt and perhaps starting out in a trailer. Having spent a lot of time in a fly-over state, it is frankly depressing. I spent the summer in Chandler, AZ one year for work and I can say that cup of yogurt has more culture than Phoenix. Every restaurant is a Marie Calendars or Claim Jumper offering salty food in over-generous portions that tastes all the same. I hated it.

There are no high paying jobs in those areas, unless you consider working at a service center a high paying job. Realtors hit it big during the credit boom, but they are all wal-mart greeters who will probably never make that amount of money again in their lifetime.

The schools are overcrowded with kids who have no desire to improve themselves and resort to trouble.

This is the truth. Changing a tire is not something you put on your resume. Unless you're the guy who wants to work for AAA... Otherwise, its just a commodity that you're better off paying someone a few bucks to do.

Dave Thomas's picture

Farmers with no drive and no ambition? (Head explodes)

I think you're on the wrong website dude, try this:

Tegrat's picture

Lmfao so agree! Education == More Marxsist training - the NE ain't a near solid blue (ironically red) for nuthin. Those guys will say thank you to the man when the feds come for their guns. Sophisticated neighbors? Aren't those guys the zombies you been reading about?



pan-the-ist's picture

That's one way to rationalize those bad decisions.  But clearly you are better than us midwesterners.  I can't believe you have had a higher education, if you did you wouldn't over generalize like you do.

Watauga's picture

What a pretentious little bitch.  Your ignorance is exceeded only by the narrowness of your vision.  I would urge you to actually live and work on a farm in rural America before spewing such drivel.

secret_sam's picture

Props for the honesty.  What you describe is most of why the light-blue states are light-blue.

malek's picture

 and his kids are dumb as rocks courtesy of a really bad public education system

So your kids are going to be bright because of the public school system in NY?
I'd like some of what you're taking.

LawsofPhysics's picture

Is this the same New York with all the Wall street criminals that have bought our representation and stolen our retirement accounts?

Let me be clear, go fuck yourself.

DaveyJones's picture

garden with plastic cover in the winter. If Elliot Coleman can do it in Maine 

Rentier's picture

If you have to make a car payment (aka can't pay cash) you can't afford the car and shouldn't have it.

MeBizarro's picture

That's a ridiculous grocery budget for a family of 4 even if you are buying a ton of store-made, prepared food.  My bet is that you don't spend nearly $10k in groceries annually.

If you do:

1. Learn to shop around and become price conscious.  Hell, if you live in Boston or near it go down to Haymarket or over to East Boston and reap huge discounts on produce and meat/seafood if you go at the appropriate time.  Also look for canned generic items which can be doctored up or put into things like casseroles, etc that help to cover up the bland taste

2. Start clipping coupons and only buying what is on sale in bulk

3. Grown and start a garden if possiblep

4. Look at local co-op options which often give you a ton of produce during summer for a moderate price

5. Buy a shitload of fruit in the fall and start canning it.    



FrankDrakman's picture

Have to agree with Bizzarro - granted, I'm single, but I barely spend $150/month on groceries in Canada (where, thanks to our Marxist "supply management system", we pay about double what Americans pay for dairy, eggs, and a few other things). I buy Select roasts at $1.99/lb, cut 'em into steaks, and then marinate them to make up for the lack of fatty flavour. (Sure, I like Prime/Choice, and once or twice a year I splurge on it, but I'm talking everyday food here.) My freezer is stuffed with chicken, pork, and beef that I bought on sale, divided into meal size portions, and froze. When canned goods go on sale, I stock up. Up here, a 2lb jar of peanut butter is normally about $7-8. Last week, they were on sale for $3.88, so I bought five. There's a year's worth right there.

Yes, it takes planning and effort, but I figure every dollar I save is worth about $2, given the high level of ultimate taxation up here (federal, provincial, users fees, etc.)

Buck Johnson's picture

That map tells it all, and if you average it all, almost 40% (Guarantee that the 30% color is alot closer to the 40%) of the working population is under the 200% poverty line.  We are going into a two class system where the rich have wealth and the rest live on the scraps.

secret_sam's picture

To echo the comment above, $10K/year in groceries is either eating like a king daily (you snack on shrimp like peanuts) or it's feeding a football field of fatties.

I remember being SO sympathetic when Obama expressed his concern about the price of arugula...

(Oh!  Wait!  Do you include beer, wine, and spirits in the grocery budget?!?)

Hobbleknee's picture

I put myself through college on $10K per year without taking loans in the 90s.

Tegrat's picture

I did too man. My first semester was $374 as a in-state freshman. I wrote that out of my checking account using up 10 weeks of part time grocery store money saved up. My books were $400. When I got out I owed $800.oo. I do thank my parent's tho. They let me stay til I was finished and only charged me a meager rent.


toady's picture

Exactly why I hate baffle-them-with-bullshit statistics.

GeorgeHayduke's picture

Bennies? Haven't seen them in a decade myself. Of course, I've been self employed those years as it's the only way to pull down a worthwhile wage without kissing some morons ass.

Still, it's a false assumption that fits well with the point you're trying to make. Doesn't mean it's reality though.

I think I need to buy a gun's picture

in the future u will HAVE to have bennies, your government loves u and wants you fit

DaveyJones's picture

I want a map of the "poorly working" where all the govt jobs are going.

Prometheus418's picture

No, Trav.

Before I even start, let me say that it's good to see you back- I wasn't one of your haters the first time around.

That being said, I have a family of five, and I make right around $40k/year, with an absolute ban on overtime at my workplace.  We live out in the sticks, so let's discard any thoughts of city premiums.

The reality is that yes, many of the people around me think that what I earn is "MORE than decent money" based on what they see from the outside looking in.  The reality is a lot harsher and colder than that.  What I see from the inside looking out is that I've gained 40lbs in the last year because more or less all of the meat in my diet has been replaced with empty carbs (ever tried eating spagetti for dinner more than 31 days in a row?  Not recommended.) I watch those who earn half my nominal wage get more and more benefits that allow them to eat fresh produce and buy clothing at the same time!!! and still have gasoline to get back and forth to work while I can't sleep at night because I'm trying to figure out some way.... any way.... to keep the lights on- including offing myself so that my wife and kids get the insurance money.  Fuck.  You want to hear something fucked up?  My wife went to the food pantry in our town a few weeks ago against my wishes, and I could not speak for almost an hour when I ate a goddamn orange that was soft and had bad spots all over it because I hadn't had one in almost a year- if I would have opened my mouth, I would have cried- but because I actually give a shit about my family, I STFU, and kept it to myself.  That's what "MORE than decent money" gets you today.  Have you ever had the experience of lusting after a few cans of peaches in the pantry, and pushing it down because you know that if you eat them, your children will end up stunted and mildly retarded?

My family?  We've got nothing.  No EBT, no energy assistance, no housing assistance, nothing.  We're the "rich people." I already blew my savings and precious metals on foolish shit like food and clothing for my children.  I had enough left over after that to continue wearing the same socks that have have had holes in them for years.  Hooray!!! Then, lucky me, I spent most of the day in the hospital today because I had the temerity and unmitigated gall to develop appendicitis.  Sure, I've got heath insurance- but since it comes from the private sector, and not from big sugar daddy Uncle Sam, my $400/mo premium comes with a $9000 deductible.  That means this year will be 33% worse than last year.  Luckily, I prepped for it- sadly, that means more endless months drooling over the impossible idea of eating meat and fruit, while we survive on flour and beans.  

Awesome.... they saved my life so that they could shoot me in the head.  If I'm lucky, the IRA... er... I mean the IRS won't charge me for the priviledge of living in this fine county this year, so that I maybe won't strangle the fucks who work part time at the gas station, and are using their $15,000 tax "returns" to buy a 60" LED TV in February so they have something to entertain them while they do bhong hits.

Yes, in case you are all wondering- the mass shootings will continue, and likely worsen, until morale improves.


prains's picture



If you have any skill or drive to work I have one word for you




4o K/Yr is entry level teenage labourer wage, bitch about the cold and then ask yourself if 100 K/yr apprenticing is all that bad

If you're out of shape, there are a ton of short haul driving jobs falling off the vine. Expand your horizon my friend

Watauga's picture

Got work up there for a 22 year old Pol Sci grad who would rather work for a living than stroke egos, or worse, on Capitol Hill?  Got a link?  Got a contact? 

FrankDrakman's picture

Got any skills? They're looking for carpenters, roughnecks, pipefitters, etc. If you're looking for a pencil pushing job, not really an option.

prains's picture

Sorry no link but just Google Edmonton Help wanted and Calgary Help wanted. If Construction google Ledcor, PCL, Graham. If trucking just google trucking jobs alberta. You get the idea.


Drive up, you have a full time job in a week if you look like you know what personal grooming is guaranteed. I've met people from all over the world in Alberta that just hopped a plane and  are working full time, some on their third job as they look for what's right for them.

Now these are all hands on jobs, you need to be dependable and not necessarily a skill but are trainable and want to learn quickly. These folks succeed, they then build up a fund and start their own business here and sky's the limit.

Our family flew here in 77 with 2k and one job offer now business owners and beach dwellers every winter.


Little note on the winters, it really isn't that cold if you have good clothes. Everything is built around being indoors. Mayan Rivierra, Wailea Maui are all short direct flights. After a couple of winters you soon realize -10 C on a sunny bluebird day is actually a beautiful thing. Add being on the top of Goats Eye at Sunshine Mountain and you soon realize who the real pussies of the world are.


infomercial done

TheFourthStooge-ing's picture


The darker BLUE that graphic becomes as time goes by, the more LIKELY it becomes that the 'South' will rise again...

The 'South' won't be alone. It looks like pretty much the whole country is economically fucked, and getting fuckeder.

XitSam's picture

I note that they do not have a seperate category for D.C. or the D.C. area.

madcows's picture

That's because the map legend only has blue colors.  If there was flaming red in the legend they could show it on the map.  All that hot money flying around to buy politicians would require Nuclear Orange.  Even the panhandlers are doing well with all that free cash the FEDs are spewing into the air.

BooMushroom's picture

Nuclear orange! Like Effie Trinkett's hair.

Must be nice to live in The Capitol.

spankfish's picture

"The south rising", was that a penis joke?