Economy Byte: Working Poor at Higher Risk for Homelessness

written by Anna Blasco
December 8, 2010

Brief on the working poor
Interactive state-by-state map

Newsflash: the working poor are having an especially tough time in this recession.

Shocked yet? Probably not.

But the picture is more textured and nuanced than you might imagine.

For the second installment of our “Economy Bytes” series, the Alliance’s Homelessness Research Institute focused on a population that is struggling to weather the “Great Recession” – the working poor.

In short, we found that the working poor population is more likely to experience risk factors for homelessness than the general working population. And a lot of that is because they’ve been disproportionately affected by elements of this recession.

What do we mean? Okay, so we looked at three elements: severe housing cost burden, doubled up housing situations, and income.

And we found that – although people from different income brackets experience severe housing cost burden, doubled up housing situation, and reduced income – the working poor are more likely to experience these factors and experience them more acutely.

  • Severe housing cost burden: In 2008, 37.6 percent of the working poor population spent more than 50 percent of their monthly income on rent compared to just 3.8 percent of the general working population.
  • Doubled up: In 2008, an estimated 7.8 percent of the working poor population was doubled up with family or friends as compared to less than 6.5 percent of the general working population.
  • Income/workforce: On average, the working poor population works 46.2 weeks per yearcompared to the general working population’s 49.1 weeks per year. Moreover, the working poor population are also employed in more volatile industries and earn less per hour – industry average of $12.78 per hour compared with average private sector earnings of $21.62 per hour – than the average working person.

Each of these factors – and the culmination of them, certainly – are all risk factors for homelessness and, as the data show, common experiences among working poor people.

It’s not pretty news but news nonetheless. To read the full report, please visit our website and while you’re crusing, take a peek at our interactive map to see how your state stacks up.