The economic gap between low-income working white and Asian families and minority families, especially blacks and Latinos, is the widest it has been since 2007, a new report by the Working Poor Families Project found. The findings indicate that the labor force in the U.S. is increasingly divided along racial and ethnic lines, with minorities falling behind economically.
Racial and ethnic minorities constitute a disproportionate percentage of lower-income working class families, the report found. They make up 58 percent of America's 10.6 million low-income working families, yet make up only 40 percent of the 32.6 million working families overall in the United States. Viewed in another light, in the year 2013, working families that were headed by racial and ethnic minorities were twice as likely to be poor than non-Hispanic whites, and that likelihood has increased since 2007.
Of working families that were white or Asian, less than a quarter were low-income. But within African-American, American Indian, and Latino working class families, those who were considered low-income constituted nearly half (African-American, American Indian) or more than half (Latino). In other words, racial and ethnic minorities are likely to be found working just as hard as whites but earning less money, in low-paying jobs.
For immigrants, their economic situations and prospects were often even more dire than their U.S.-born counterparts. In 2013, nearly three-quarters of low-income Latino families had at least one parent who was an immigrant.
The Working Poor Families Project called for state government policies that would "improve conditions for millions of lower-income parents and their children, reduce inequality and promote economic growth." It called on all states to expand Medicaid (only about half have done so under the Affordable Care Act) to include more low-income working class families, increase the minimum wage and improve benefits, and to invest in education and career training.