5 Ways Low-Wage Americans Face Increased Economic Hardship

Source: Stock.xchng

Source: Stock.xchng

The difference between being poor and being in poverty can seem fairly arbitrary to those at the bottom of the wealth and income ladder. The Census Bureau calculates that there are 46.5 million people living in poverty in the United States, or 15 percent of the population. These are single adults with incomes below the federal poverty guideline of $11,490 per year, families of two that earn less than $15,510 per year, families of three that earn less than $19,530 per year, and so on.

An elevated poverty rate is a tragic and embarrassing problem to have if you’re one of the wealthiest countries in the world, but the Census Bureau’s 15 percent estimate only paints part of the picture. What is not included in the calculation are the millions of single adult Americans who earn just above the poverty level, placing them in the economically dubious lower and lower-middle classes.

The Hamilton Project, an economic public policy initiative conducted by the Brookings Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, reports that as many as 30 percent of working-age families with children earn incomes between 100 and 250 percent of the federal poverty limit. “Though not officially poor, these individuals and families experience limited economic security,” Director Melissa Kearny and Policy Director Benjamin Harris wrote in a December report on America’s lower-middle class. “One major setback could thrust them into economic chaos.”

Here are some of the data, highlighted by the Hamilton Project, that contextualize the economic reality facing many Americans who walk the line between poverty and the lower and lower-middle class.