richpoor

Increasing the minimum wage, guaranteeing paid sick leave and enforcing equal pay laws are all ways states can address the increasing wealth gap between the richest and poorest Americans, according a recent policy brief on the gap, and its effects on racial minorities.

The brief, titled “Low-Income Working Families: The Racial/Ethnic Divide,” was produced by the Working Poor Families Project, a national initiative focused on state workforce policies, according to its website.

According to the report’s findings, not only has the number of low-income working families grown over the course of the recession (from 10.1 million in 2009 to 10.6 million in 2013), but also the share of minorities among low-income working families has grown.

“At the onset of the recession in 2007, there was a 23 percentage-point gap between the share of white and minority families that were low-income, but this gap grew to 25 percentage points by 2013,” reads the brief.

While minorities account for 40 percent of all working families in America, they are over-represented among low-income working families, of whom 58 percent are non-White.  Almost 50 percent of African-American working families are low-income (earning below 200 percent the poverty level), while 55 percent of Latino families are in the same boat.

“Racial/ethnic minorities are not disproportionately low-income because of a lack of work effort, but because they are more likely to be working in low-paying jobs. . . . hese are the kinds of jobs that have flourished since the onset of the recession. Low-wage jobs with wages of less than $13.83 per hour have accounted for 58 percent of employment gains since 2010,” reads the brief.

There are, however, policies states can pursue to address this problem. Among the policies the brief recommends is ensuring access to childcare, raising the minimum wage, increasing adult education pathways, guaranteeing paid sick leave, and pursuing a state-level earned income tax credit.

ralejandro@afro.com