Home Education The Dynamics of Opportunity in America
Poverty/Near Poverty Problems of the Underutilized
Our second measure of income inadequacy focuses on those persons with annual family incomes below 125 % of the poverty line: the poor and near poor. Overall, from March 2013 to March 2014, approximately one of every eight workers (12.5 %) was a member of a poor or near-poor family (see Table 7.11 and Fig. 7.21).
Among the underutilized, however, one-third were poor or near poor versus only 8.6 % of the not underutilized, a relative difference of nearly four times.
Among the underutilized, the poverty/near poverty rates of workers varied across educational attainment groups, being highest for those with the least education and falling with the level of educational attainment (see Fig. 7.22). Those underutilized workers lacking a high school diploma or GED faced a poverty/near poverty rate of
Fig. 7.20 Poverty rates of workers (16 and over) by underutilized status and educational attainment, March 2013 and March 2014 (in %)
Table 7.11 Poverty/near poverty rates of 16 and older persons  in 2012–2013 by labor force underutilization status in March 2013 and March 2014, total and by gender and educational attainment level
Source: 2013 and 2014 March CPS Supplements, public use files, U.S. Census Bureau, tabulations by authors
47 %. This rate declined to 30 % for those with 1–3 years of college, and to a low of 16 % for those with a master's or higher degree. The least well educated underutilized workers were about 2.3 times as likely to be poor or near poor as their counterparts with a four-year or higher college degree.
The findings on the underutilization status of workers were combined with their educational attainment to estimate poverty/near poverty rates for various subgroups
Fig. 7.21 Poverty/near poverty rates of workers (16 and over) in 2012–2013 by labor underutilization status, March 2013–March 2014
Fig. 7.22 Poverty/near poverty rates of underutilized U.S. workers (16 and over) by educational attainment, March 2013–March 2014 (in %)
of such workers. The poverty/near poverty rates of these workers ranged quite widely across these various subgroups (see Fig. 7.23). Close to 50 % of underutilized, high school dropouts were poor/near poor versus slightly more than one-third of high school graduates. Among those workers who were not underutilized, just 11 % of high school graduates were members of poor/near poor families and under 3 % of those with a bachelor's or higher degree. Poverty/near poverty rates of underutilized high school dropouts were 17 times greater than those of the college educated who were not underutilized.
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