Cities Where Having a Job Doesn’t Keep You Out of Poverty

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Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

20. Bakersfield, CA
> Poverty rate of full-time workforce: 6.3%
> Official poverty rate: 22.6% (top 10%)
> June 2019 unemployment rate: 8.0% (top 10%)
> Avg. workweek: 39.0 hours (top 40%)

While nationwide, Americans who work full-time, year-round are 4.9 times less likely to be in poverty than the general public, in Bakersfield, full-time workers are only 3.6 times less likely to live below the poverty line. One reason for the relatively high rate of working poverty in the city may be the large number of low-wage agricultural jobs.

Some 19.1% of workers in Bakersfield are employed in agriculture, the fifth largest share in the nation. The average agricultural worker earns just $562 a week, among the least of any metropolitan agricultural sector and less than half the $1,101 average weekly wage for all U.S. workers.

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19. Dalton, GA
> Poverty rate of full-time workforce: 5.3%
> Official poverty rate: 18.9% (top 20%)
> June 2019 unemployment rate: 4.6% (top 20%)
> Avg. workweek: 38.7 hours (top 40%)

Dalton is one of many manufacturing-dependent metro areas in the South with a large share of working adults living in poverty. Some 43.6% of workers in Dalton are employed in the manufacturing sector, the fifth largest share of any U.S. city. The average wage for manufacturing workers in Dalton is just $850 a week, far less than both the average of $1,318 for the sector nationwide and the average of $1,101 for all U.S. workers.

An estimated 5.3% of Dalton residents who work full-time live in poverty, about one-fourth the 18.9% poverty rate for all residents. Nationwide, the 3.0% working poverty rate is roughly one-fifth the 14.6% official poverty rate.

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18. Hilton Head Island-Bluffton-Beaufort, SC
> Poverty rate of full-time workforce: 3.8%
> Official poverty rate: 13.4% (bottom 40%)
> June 2019 unemployment rate: 3.2% (bottom 30%)
> Avg. workweek: 39.9 hours (top 10%)

A vacation destination for roughly 2.7 million visitors every year, the Hilton Head Island metro area is one of several tourist hubs where a relatively large share of full-time workers live in poverty because of low-wage jobs. Some 15.6% of the Hilton Head workforce is employed in the leisure and hospitality sector, the seventh largest share of any metro area. The average worker in leisure and hospitality earns just $430 a week, less than half the $1,101 average weekly wage for workers across all industries nationwide. Leisure and hospitality is another sector that can pay full-time workers poverty wages.

While nationwide, Americans who work full-time year-round are 4.9 times less likely to be in poverty than the general public, in Hilton Head, full-time workers are only 3.5 times less likely to live below the poverty line.

Source: DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

17. Lake Charles, LA
> Poverty rate of full-time workforce: 4.7%
> Official poverty rate: 16.5% (top 40%)
> June 2019 unemployment rate: 3.5% (bottom 50%)
> Avg. workweek: 39.7 hours (top 20%)

Full- and part-time workers in Lake Charles work for an average of 39.7 hours a week — a full hour longer than the national figure. Despite the longer workweek, 4.7% of full-time, year-round workers in Lake Charles live in poverty, far more than the 3.0% national working poverty rate.

One factor contributing to the relatively large share of working poor in Lake Charles may be the population’s low educational attainment. Areas with low educational attainment are less likely to attract advanced industries and often have relatively few high-wage jobs available. Just 21.4% of adults in Lake Charles have a bachelor’s degree, far less than the 30.9% national rate.