In a country as wealthy as the United States, “working poor” should be a contradiction in terms. But tens of millions of Americans fall into that category — affecting a growing population of children.
Despite their toil, many of the working poor are broke. Frequently they lack health insurance. If a child gets sick, if they lose their job, if a spouse leaves, it can swiftly spell a financial emergency. They sometimes choose between food and rent or between medicine and heat. What’s it like for people in low-paying fulltime jobs, with no savings, falling behind on their bills, sometimes lining up at food pantries, even shelters? And how does this affect the rest of society?
In this documentary, we listen to a former police officer, a hospital worker, a nursing home assistant and others who are barely getting by. And we hear the insights of David K. Shipler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Working Poor,” Dr. Nancy Cauthen, of Columbia University’s National Center for Children in Poverty, Beth Shulman, author of “The Betrayal of Work,” policy researcher Gordon Berlin of MDRC, Northeastern University labor analyst Barry Bluestone and others.
If we don’t do something about the tens of millions of families who are just getting by, or not getting by at all, we will continue to have a society that becomes more and more uneven, more and more unequal, and in a sense, more and more unstable.”
—Prof. Barry Bluestone, Northeastern University