Working Full-Time, Stuck Below the Poverty Line

Working Full Time, Living below the poverty lineNo one working a full-time should be living under the poverty line.

In December 2017, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Statistics released the latest statistics showing the average hours and earnings for all private sector employees. In Pennsylvania for the month of December 2017, the average private sector employee worked 33.9 hours a week earning $25.34 an hour, which averaged out to weekly earnings of $859.03. 

A person working 40-hours a week at minimum wage takes home $290 per week, a total of $569.03 less than the average private sector employee in Pennsylvania who works less hours per week. The 40-hour work week of full-time minimum wage workers rarely include personal days, sick days, paid vacations, or health care benefits that are afforded to many private sector employees.

The last time $7.25 per hour was enough to keep a family of 2 above the Federal poverty line was 2011. $7.25 per hour pay has not been enough to keep a family above poverty level since 2012.   

Raising Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $12 would bump minimum wage workers above the poverty line with a yearly salary of $24,960. Implementing a plan that would gradually raise pay for workers to a minimum of $15 an hour would provide full time workers with a salary of close to $31,000 by 2024.

Family Size 2017 Federal 
Poverty Line
Individual $12,060
2 Persons $16,240
3 Persons $20,420
4 Persons $24,600

Pennsylvanians who are working full time can be financially independent, not having to rely on government assistance to make ends meet. Helping working people live above the poverty line is predicted to reduce the costs of Human Services programs by $50 million.

Raising the wage makes sense not only to help pull individual families out of poverty, but to help Pennsylvania’s finances overall. The importance of consumer spending in an economy is crucial. 70 percent of the Gross National Product is contributed by consumer spending and it is common sense to figure that a boost in wages for workers will lead to an increase in their spending power. This is smart economic policy that will benefit Pennsylvania overall.

What We Can Do

It is time for lawmakers to come together and support a raise in Pennsylvania’s minimum wage. For more information on how to get involved in the fight to raise the wage, visit Sen. Haywood’s Citizen Advocacy Hub or contact his district office.