On the face of it, the economy seems to be doing pretty well, with unemployment rates near or at record lows, but that’s far from the full story. The truth is there remains a vast segment of workers today who are earning low wages that leaves them and their families at risk.
When I speak with economic researchers, which I do periodically, this is something that seldom comes up. We habitually underestimate how prevalent this truly is.
A new report from the Brookings Institute shows that 53 million Americans – 44% of all workers aged 18-64– have low-wage jobs. This significant portion of the nation’s labor force is earning median hourly wages of $10.22 and median annual earnings of $17,950.00.
Brookings found that they are not only students, people at the beginning of their careers, or people needing extra spending money. For the most part, their low-wage work is the primary way they support themselves and their families. The authors of the report found that low-wage workers are a racially diverse group, and disproportionately female. 52% are white, 25% are Hispanic, 15% are Black, and 5% are Asian American. Both Hispanic and black workers are over-represented relative to their share of the total workforce.