For many Kansas families, employment doesn’t offer path out of poverty

Michael Raven
May 31, 2018

In keeping with the pioneer spirit, Kansans are not afraid of hard work. For generations, residents have worked to build roads, extract oil and natural gas, and feed the nation. Underlying this work ethic is the assumption that if people work, they should achieve financial security. However, new data from the American Communities Survey (ACS) highlights a troubling number of Kansas households are living in or near poverty despite being employed.

  • Families living in poverty: Eight in 10 families living in poverty have an adult working. In 2016, nearly a third of families in poverty (32 percent) had an adult working full-time and nearly half (48 percent) had an adult working part-time.
  • Families on the edge of poverty: 85 percent of families living near poverty have an adult working. In 2016, more than four in 10 (43 percent) of families living near poverty[1] had an adult working full-time. A similar number of families living near poverty had an adult working part-time (42 percent).

Families and households do not fall into poverty because they lack ambition or the desire to work. Thousands of families across Kansas get up every morning, work hard, and still struggle to pay their bills. We can do more to help families across the state that face these challenges.

To help ensure that no Kansan lives in poverty, Kansas policymakers should:

  • Avoid regressive tax schemes that disproportionately affect lower-income households.
  • Expand KanCare to the 150,000 Kansans who make too much to currently qualify,[2] but who make too little to afford private health insurance.
  • Protect the Earned Income Tax Credit, which provides low-income families with much-needed relief.
  • Increase access and eligibility to social safety net programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
  • Make child care more affordable and accessible for working families.

No one should live in poverty. Taking action on the above policies will help families make ends meet and ensure the Kansas economy works for everyone. The hard work of every Kansan strengthens the state. It is time that policymakers ensure that workers across the state benefit from their labor and contributions.

 

[1] Near Poverty is defined as being in a family with income below 125 percent of the poverty line.

[2] http://www.expandkancare.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/KanCare-Fact-Sheet-FAQ.pdf

 

Michael Raven is the Kansas Center for Economic Growth’s assistant policy and research analyst.

ClayFor many Kansas families, employment doesn’t offer path out of poverty