Report: Measuring Opportunities for Working Families

The number of working families living in poverty in Colorado increased by 16,000 from 2004 to 2012 – a jump of almost 50 percent, the Bell Policy Center reports in Measuring Opportunities for Working Families. In addition, the portion of all Colorado working families living in poverty increased from 1 in 17 to 1 in 12 over the same period.

Related: Minimum Wage Facts

The Bell has tracked 20 indicators of achievement, self-sufficiency, and well-being among poor and low-income families in 2004, 2010 and 2012. This is the third report in a series summarizing this data. The most recent results show, even though the economy is improving, too many low-income working families are having a hard time getting ahead. The Bell analyzed U.S. Census Bureau data provided by the Working Poor Families Project, a national initiative focused on improving the economic condition of these families.

Here are highlights from the most recent report:

  • Colorado has more families living in poverty in our 2012 report than our 2010 report, and fewer of them are employed.
  • Due to economic barriers, low-skilled and low-income adults have limited access to the postsecondary education or skills-training programs necessary to gain employment in quality jobs that lead to self-sufficiency and family-sustaining wages.
  • Both the number of adults who held part-time jobs for economic reasons and the number of workers aged 18 and older who held low-wage jobs increased between our 2010 and 2012 reports.
  • Nearly 60 percent of all Colorado workers do not have employer-provided pensions, which are effective ways to save for retirement while working.

“We know the economic downturn has been hard on families all across Colorado, but low-income families have been hit especially hard,” said Rich Jones, director of policy and research. “These are hard-working families, many with low levels of education who are often just getting by working in low-wage jobs.”

“This recent report gives us more data to identify long-term trends,” Jones said, “and we believe now, we can point to some practical steps that will help these families obtain education and skills training, get better jobs and prepare for the future.”

Related: Bound to Succeed: Two-Generation Approaches to Education in Colorado

The purpose of this report is to document the status of working poor families in Colorado and provide data that can be used to craft policy solutions to help them. Opening doors to education and skills training, helping workers better prepare for jobs that pay self-sufficiency wages, and providing a mechanism for workers to save for retirement — these are actions we can take at the state level.

These are the key areas where we can enact change to unleash the potential of Coloradans and provide greater opportunities for Colorado’s families to advance toward economic independence and security.

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