P. Mae Cooper sent in a report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research that looked at economic insecurity in the U.S. Using data from the Census Bureau’s Annual Social and Economic Supplement, the authors calculate the percentage of good jobs in each state. They define a good job as one that pays at least $17/hr (the inflation-adjusted median income for men in 1979), which for a full-time year-round worker would mean an annual income around $35,000, and which provides health insurance and retirement benefits. Overall, about 1 in 4 jobs fit this definition of a good job, with quite a bit of variation by state:

The data was for 2003-2005, so this doesn’t reflect any effect of the recession on the types of jobs available.

They also calculated the % of jobs that don’t meet any of the elements of a good job — that is, they pay under $17/hr, they don’t provide health insurance, and they don’t have any retirement plan available. These are more common than good jobs, making up about a third of all jobs in the typical state:

One criticism of the official poverty line is that it doesn’t account for regional differences in cost of living, as well as supplementary forms of income supports (Social Security, unemployment, etc.). The authors used Survey of Income and Program Participation data to calculate economic insecurity by taking into account regional costs of living.

The calculations include data for 1) working families and 2) only those families that have 1 or 2 adults and o to 3 children, so it excludes families where not adults are employed or that have 4 or more children. And the data are for 2001-2003, so again, it doesn’t reflect the recession. This map shows the % of the included families whose total income is less than the basic budget standard (that is, actual market costs of essential goods and services in over 400 localities) where they live. About 22% of families were economically insecure, with a lot of variation by state:

I really hope someone updates this analysis, given the recession, but the report provides a general illustration of an important aspect of our economy, and the limitations of a measure of poverty that entirely ignores regional costs of living.

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