Children, elderly and disabled experience the most poverty in the US, study shows

Children, elderly and disabled experience the most poverty in the US, study shows
Sara Weber, Deseret News

In a report released earlier this month, the Brookings Institution found that there is a significant effort to find work by those experiencing poverty in the U.S., a population heavily comprised of children, retirees and the disabled, among others.

The group looked at the characteristics of 46.7 million people in the United States who experienced poverty in 2014, and how much they participated in the workforce.

According to the analysis, the main purpose for the study was to clarify who makes up the poor population because “understanding the characteristics of the poor is crucial for crafting effective anti-poverty policies.”

It found that more than 15.5 million children — or 35 percent of the poor population — experienced poverty in 2014. The National Center for Children in Poverty says many of these children have parents who work, but they make low wages. The center warns that “poverty can impede children’s ability to learn and contribute to social, emotional, and behavioral problems.”

The second-largest group of people who experienced poverty was the labor force, which came in at 25 percent. The study defines the labor force as those working or seeking employment.

Senior citizens and the disabled each made up another 10 percent of the poor population. And full- and part-time students made up 7 percent.

Caregivers, or people who care for children or their families, accounted for 8 percent.

Three percent of the poor population was made up of early retirees, as did those not active in the labor force who didn’t qualify as a child or as disabled.

The analysis also examined workforce participation among the impoverished and found that “a portion of those living in poverty who are disabled, a caregiver, a student, or retired are indeed in the labor force.”

Nearly half of those who were eligible to join the workforce but only worked part-time faced economic circumstances beyond their control, the study said, meaning “they would like to work full time but cannot due to an economic reason such as inability to find a full time job, employer reduction of hours, or slack work.”

And of the 55 percent of working-age adults who are not in the labor force, 18 percent are disabled and 26 percent are caregivers or students with busy schedules.

The report suggests that the number of those who are not working full-time, year-round, is “readily explicable in terms of factors like disability, education or caregiving.”

Recently, the International Monetary Fund announced a decrease in the U.S. labor force and urged the government to raise minimum wage and provide “family-friendly benefits” to draw more parents and caregivers into working.

Email: sweber@deseretnews.com; Twitter: @sarapweber

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