Low-Wage Workers Are Finding Poverty Harder to Escape


Climbing above the poverty line has become more daunting in recent years, as the composition of the nation’s low-wage work force has been transformed.
News Story (Tennessee)

Steven Greenhouse
New York Times (NYT)
March 16, 2014
Link to story

Tags: Poverty, Pro Bono


DETAILS

Climbing above the poverty line has become more daunting in recent years, as the composition of the nation’s low-wage work force has been transformed by the Great Recession, shifting demographics and other factors. More than half of those who make $9 or less an hour are 25 or older, while the proportion who are teenagers has declined to just 17 percent from 28 percent in 2000, after adjusting for inflation, according to Janelle Jones and John Schmitt of the Center for Economic Policy Research.

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In Chattanooga, the prevalence of low-wage jobs has contributed to the high poverty rate: 27 percent of the city’s residents live below the poverty line, compared with 15 percent nationwide. Women head about two-thirds of the city’s poor households, and 42 percent of its children are poor, nearly double the rate statewide.

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“It used to be that folks came in with a single issue — it was like, ‘I have to buy a new tire because my tire blew out,’ or, ‘I’m short on my electrical bill,’ ” Ms. Whelchel said. “Now they come in with a rubber band around a bunch of bills and problems. Everything is wrong. Everything is tangled with everything else.”

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At age 34, Nick Mason earns $9 an hour as an assistant manager for a Domino’s, overseeing a crew of six. “I don’t think $9 is fair — I’ve been working in the pizza business for 19 years, since I was 15,” he said.