The Working Poor: Financial Hardship in America


Many Americans face financial hardship as the economic environment remains unstable, and jobs continue to be scarce, now exasperated exponentially by the coronavirus pandemic. Some are faced with home foreclosure, dwindling bank accounts, and liquidated retirement accounts to satisfy financial obligations. Few households, however, are feeling the financial strain like the working poor.

A report published by the Washington Post indicates that low-wage, poverty-stricken Americans tend to be young and non-homeowners; they are less likely to be registered to vote and have lower rates of marriage than the overall population. Roughly 10 percent have graduated from college, and most have not even achieved a high school diploma.

As many companies seek to downsize and outsource domestic positions, competition for jobs has become especially fierce. Jobs that require technical skill and advanced education, such as computer and technology-based positions, make up a large percentage of job availabilities as many corporations have automated and streamlined operations that have all but eliminated low wage, labor-based positions. This process has squeezed workers with lower levels of education out of the workforce, which has compounded the problem of joblessness and perpetuated the cycle of poverty in many communities.

Those who have retained their low-wage jobs find themselves often in a position of prioritizing their household and personal needs. According to the Washington Post study, it is not uncommon for low-income earners to sacrifice heat for money for groceries or fuel for vehicles used to commute to low paying jobs. Additionally, employees who work in entry-level positions often are not provided access to health and dental benefits by their employers and are not compensated for sick days. Approximately forty percent of working Americans are subject to a lack of medical resources and employer-paid benefits.

As all Americans struggle with an unstable economic environment, the working poor remain most vulnerable to financial hardship.

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