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Hard work, hard lives

Survey exposes harsh reality faced by low-wage workers in the US.

Millions of Americans work hard at jobs that do not sustain them and their families financially. Oxfam recognizes the importance of looking closely at poverty that often gets too little attention—such as that which exists even in wealthy nations like the US. Hoping to call attention to the harsh realities of life for low-wage workers, and to elevate the voices of America’s working poor, Oxfam America commissioned a national survey of low-wage workers in 2013.

The survey— conducted by Hart Research Associates—revealed stark and sometimes unexpected results, and raised anew questions about poverty and inequality in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. The survey found that America’s working poor have a strong work ethic, put in long hours, and believe that hard work can pay off. At the same time, millions of Americans hold jobs that trap them in a cycle of working hard while still unable to get ahead, which leaves them with little hope for economic mobility. Many of America’s working poor are in jobs that pay less than previous jobs, and an overwhelming majority believes that people are more likely to fall from the middle class rather than rise into it.

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