Working to Make Ends Meet

Research Report

Working to Make Ends Meet

Understanding the Income and Expenses of America's Low-Income Families
September 19, 2005


This report clarifies the discussion and debate over what constitutes a low-income working family, documents the size and characteristics of low-income working population, and examines their incomes and expenditures. Using data from the 2002 round of the National Survey of America's Families (NSAF), we find that low-income families (income below twice the federal poverty line) with at least one full-time, full-year worker have incomes that are roughly in line with their basic expenses thanks to their work effort, earned income, and a generous refundable Earned Income Tax Credit; however, low-income families without a full-time, full-year worker do not appear to have enough income to cover their basic expenses.

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