Five grim realities for Colorado’s low-income workers

All too often, the poor get blamed for being poor. It’s their own fault they have no money. Just get a job.

But in Colorado, a job’s not enough.

Here, the economy is growing – but at the expense of workers and taxpayers, according to a recent report from the Colorado Fiscal Institute.

In a state with a booming housing market, rising rents and growing industry, the numbers look pretty bleak for the 20 percent of workers living under the federal poverty line. Here’s some of what the report found.

 1) Quarter broke

More than a quarter of Coloradans – about 600,000 – have jobs that pay less than $12 an hour. By federal government standards, these people, working 40 hours a week, don’t earn enough money to get by.

2) Dropping dollars

Taking inflation into account, the state’s lowest-paid employees saw their average earnings drop between 2000 and 2013. Purchasing power has plummeted 8 percent since 2001.

3) Identity matters

Women and minorities are more likely than white men to work low-paying gigs.

4) Adult industry

Adults over 20 make up 85 percent of the low-income workforce.

5) Growing market

Low-income jobs have grown from 23.7 percent of the economy in 2001 to 26.2 percent of the economy in 2013.

So what?

What’s the impact on the other 75 percent of Coloradans who make more than $12 an hour? Taxpayers end up making up the difference, according to the Institute.

“Work that pays too little isn’t just a struggle for people trying to get by and a drain on the economy,” the report reads. “It’s also a free ride for employers because taxpayers foot the bill for the public assistance people need when their jobs don’t pay enough to make ends meet.”

Photo Credit: Images Money, Creative Commons, Flickr