According to the United States Census Bureau, poverty levels are defined as less than $10,590 of annual income for a one-person household, less than $14,291 for a family of three, and less than $16,705 for a family of four. A family of nine or more people is considered to be in poverty if they have less than $40,
085 in income for the year (Census, 2007). These income levels are just the government’s cut off line for considering a family to be in poverty. Most people in the United States earn more money than that in a given year. The average income for the whole United States is more than $50,000, but that average is figured using extremely rich people in the sample as well.
Poor people experience unstable employment, stagnant or low wages, and lack perks and benefits (such as paid sick leave). Job training programs for people who live in poverty are supposed to help them find better paying and more stable employment. Unfortunately, the results of job training programs have been less than what case workers would have hoped. “One study found that two-thirds of individuals who left a low-wage service job for a job training program returned to” a similar low-wage service job at the end of training (Newman, 2006, 69). “Wages are not the only form of reward workers seek. Benefits are of great importance as well, and low-wage jobs are generally devoid of them,” Newman continues. In the low-wage employment world, it’s considered a “benefit” to get paid sick leave. People lose their jobs if they call in sick too often, and with young children at home, calling in sick is a necessity.
Low-wage workers used to be able to depend on government programs to help make ends meet. Even if they were working, government benefits could help them stay afloat—not rise out of poverty, but at least try to keep from slipping further. Welfare reform changed that for many people living in poverty (Newman, 2006. Shipler, 2005).