Racial Equity Resource Guide


To Help Low-income American Households, We Have to Close the Work Gap

Organization: Brookings

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When Franklin Roosevelt delivered his second inaugural address on January 20, 1936 he lamented the “one-third of a nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished.” He challenged Americans to measure their collective progress not by “whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; [but rather] whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” In our new paper, One third of a nation: Strategies for helping working families, we ask a simple question: How are we doing? In brief, we find that: 1)The gulf in labor market income between the haves and have-nots remains wide. The median income of households in the bottom third in 2014 was $24,000, just a little more than a quarter of the median of $90,000 for the top two-thirds. 2) The bottom-third households are disproportionately made up of minority adults, adults with limited educational attainment, and single parents. 3) The most important reason for the low incomes of the bottom third is a “work gap”: the fact that many are not employed at all, or work limited hours.

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