In the United States, it is generally assumed that holding a steady job is enough to make ends meet. But, in today’s labor market, where nearly a quarter of jobs pay low wages and offer no benefits, this couldn’t be further from the truth for millions of workers and their families. Most workers do not make ends meet on their wages alone. Upper- and moderate-wage workers are not “selfsufficient” as most receive on-the-job benefits, such as employer-provided health insurance or paid sick days, and are eligible for unemployment or disability insurance if they need it. Workers in low-wage jobs find themselves with insufficient wages to cover their basic family needs and also do not typically have access to job-related benefits to supplement their earnings. Public work supports — programs to assist working families access basics, such as health care, child care, food, and housing — could fill in the gaps and for many, they do. But, many families who struggle to bridge their resource gaps find that they make too much to be eligible for work supports. One reason for this problem is that many of our work support programs were established to assist very low-income, non-working families or single parents with very low, but steady, earnings. These programs were not typically designed to serve working families with earnings above the official poverty threshold, even though low-wage workers are not typically offered employment-based benefits. Moreover, even those who are eligible often do not receive them. These problems are widespread and are particularly acute for families with children, as well as those with one adult earner.
Albelda, Randy and Shea, Jennifer, "Bridging the Gaps Between Earnings and Basic Needs in Massachusetts: Executive Summary and Final Report" (2007). Center for Social Policy Publications. 37.