Connecticut Fares Badly In Rise of Working Poor

by Categorized: Jobs, Poverty Date:

We talk a lot about poverty rates and about the ratio of incomes between the rich and the not-rich, but those measures miss a key view of the lives of working poor families.

In 2011, there were 83,000 families in Connecticut with children living at home and an adult working — but with income under 200 percent of the federal poverty level, a new report shows.

That was 21 percent of the 389,000 families with children and jobs — making Connecticut the fifth-lowest state by that measure of the working poor.

But it was up from 16 percent in 2007, making Connecticut one of the nine fastest-growing states when it comes to the percent of working families at 200 percent of poverty, a crucial measure of low income.

The report by the Washington, D.C.-based Working Poor Families Project,  from Census data, doesn’t  account for the cost of living in Connecticut.  There’s only one poverty level, and in 2011 it was, for example, $14,710 for a family of two and $22,350 for a family of four — a lot less buying power in Connecticut than in Mississippi.

So the fact that we were the 5th lowest state in low-income working families, bested only by New Hampshire, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey, says less than the fact that we joined such recession-wracked states and Florida, Michigan and Nevada in getting much worse between 2007 and 2011.

The data included only families with an adult who worked at least 39 weeks in each year, or who worked 26 weeks and looked actively the rest of the time.  That means the measure is about quality of jobs, not government supports, which tend to muddy up poverty rates.

(Hard core data fans, click on this WPFP link and then on any of the excel links on the right for a flood of interesting metrics.)

“Connecticut needs to invest in human infrastructure. We need to make sure our citizens can work hard and earn a wage that sustains housing and health care and lets them provide for their children,” said Jim Horan, executive director of the Connecticut Association for Human Services, which released the report in this state.

“More action is needed now to ensure that all families in our state can build a secure future,” Horan said.

There is no data for the percent of those 389,000 families who were under the federal poverty level in 2011.  But in 2010, 5.1 percent of working Connecticut families with children were in poverty, up from 4 percent in 2006 — an increase roughly equal to the rise in the number of low-income families.

Nationally, there were 10.4 million working families with children that were under 200 percent of the poverty level in 2011, or 32 percent — up from 28 percent in 2007, a smaller percentage rise than Connecticut saw.

What all this suggests is that the value of work is falling everywhere, and the number of decent jobs paying wages that approach the middle class is shrinking in Connecticut.

“Family budgets were impacted by high transportation and child care costs at a time when often the only jobs that could be found tended to be in…occupations that do not pay wages adequate for supporting a family – including cashier, cook and health aide,” the CAHS report said.

“Clearly there have been positive signs over the past two years that the broad economy is improving, but the gains are not helping these low-income working families,” said Brandon Roberts, co-author of the analysis for Working Poor Families Project.

In Connecticut, where the earned income tax credit was enacted in 2011, it may not be reasonable to look for more taxpayer support for low-income families this year.  But this report shows that further cuts in social services are unwise, and measures such as a long-overdue increase in the minimum wage would make sense.

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15 thoughts on “Connecticut Fares Badly In Rise of Working Poor

  1. Billy

    It would be better to include taxpayer funded benefits instead of just income when talking about poverty level.

    1. Dan Haar

      Yes, I agree, that’s why it’s better to talk about families at the 200 percent of poverty level, as I said. At that level, incomes tend to be proportionately less dependent on taxpayer benefits. But regardless, the measure of income for working poor families is important because it shows a diminishing level of economic independence.

  2. Don

    I know of at least 3 families that are currently only working for cash, so that they still qualify for the husky program,food stamps,free mobile phone and heats assistance. They owen there homes with no mortgage’s. Please drill down into the actual issues/cause of these problems and do not believe the numbers they do not always tell the story.

  3. Dan Haar

    No question, the underground economy is a factor, but there’s no evidence it’s bigger than it was a few years ago. Consumer spending is not exactly booming.

  4. sue

    I’m personally tired of hearing about those who wants HANDOUTS. Who told people to have kids they can’t afford. In my view most of the people on welfare are there on their own accord and know how to game the system. If poverty is soooo bad why don’t these people get off their butts and get a job and improve their lives. BECAUSE it is more lucrative being a TAKER. And remember taxpayers of CT these people also use all the food banks churches United Way Red Cross after they have gamed the system and you support all these charities. We’ve had welfare since 1965 or so. Remember the WAR on Poverty. Well it wasn’t a WAR. It was to make a class of people dependent on those who work and succeed in life.

  5. Jewl

    A single person making $15k or less in CT is not working poor — they are many steps BELOW that. Ditto for 2 making $25k or less.

    Wake up CT! You have many people continually struggling hard every day to make a living. The fortunate ones are making $40 – $60k for a single person up to a family of 4 or more on the higher end. These people are struggling and suffering, too. They have to choose between buying bad food all the time and buying something more healthy if they can. They can’t afford organic, decent vitamins, etc. They don’t go on vacation, buy new cars, many don’t have cable or land line phones, they can’t afford to dine out or buy good clothes. Where is the promotion at work many of them deserve? They are being held back in low paying jobs because they are in low paying jobs. Did you get that? It’s like a caste-system prejudice. It goes double for the other poor souls making much less. The pay scale in this country, but especially in CT is way out of whack. The promotion and hiring system isn’t equitable or fair for many. It is sad.

    1. J

      Very well said! Pay scales out of whack and also the cost of everything went up while wages stayed and stay indefinitly stagnant.

  6. Ant

    They should just raise taxes . That’s the problem. I only paid 50 grand in federal and state taxes last year on my 130k salary. Let alone my 9 grand in property taxes.

  7. lifer raoul

    The problem is taxes. Our economics are out of wack. Tax every earned dollar equally and good jobs would come back in manufacturing and white collar work. The perception that “working enough” and “earning enough” are not really the same thing is incorrect. The real issue is that there are many jobs such as administrators (duplication of effort) in school systems,town governments, hospitals and which are way overpaid in regards to goods and services actually provided. Yes these people pay taxes but more importantly they do not make,sell,or produce anything. These people use their “education” to bleed the system for both rich and poor. A scholastic degree does not confirm productivity.

  8. old capitalist

    “The power to tax is the power to destroy” and we in Connecticut have been destroying what used to be a good econony.

    The results are manifest in the article.

  9. Jim Honiss

    “So the fact that we were the 5th lowest state in low-income working families, bested only by New Hampshire, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey”

    I resent the use of the word “bested”. It should be “worsted”. Being ranked next to last cannot be good but somebody will always be there.

  10. Connecticut is dying too

    Once again, Connecticut leads the way. Keep electing liberals and watch this state circle the drain.

  11. Pingback: A New Look At CT Poverty, With Some Surprises | Dan Haar

  12. J

    Just make minimum wage $25 and hour, eliminate car taxes, eliminate sales taxes, eliminate state income taxes, eliminate gas taxes, then people will be able to afford to live, they wont be depressed from being poor, the economy would do better because people wouldnt be afraid to travel, to buy nice houses or cars since they wouldnt have to lose them over tax affordability. Do that and maybe CT wouldnt be such a bad place to live if you could tolerate the 7 months a year of cold weather or that its not full of fun things to do. Even our license plates make us look like a poor, boring state to just drive through to get to NH or ME where life is better.

    1. old capitalist

      Lay off whatever your toking J and pay attention in school, especially when they are teaching basic economics.

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