Metroland, Middletown, and Lowroadistan: Low Wage Workers by State

This graph builds on the work (and data) of Rebecca Thiess, The Future of Work: Trends and Challenges for Low-Wage Workers (EPI, April 2012), whose Table 2 (reworked here) breaks down each state’s workforce into shares based on multiples of the 2010 poverty level.  There are few surprises here, but toggling the “sort” buttons on each column does yield some interesting patterns.  The six states with over 20 percent of their workforces earning more than 3 times the poverty level are all strung along the eastern seaboard, from Virginia to Massachusetts.  I call this group “Metroland.”  Another six states (mostly in the upper midwest) count more two-thirds of their workforces in the 100 to 300 percent ranges, and most of these have less than 10 percent earning in the over 300 percent range.  I call this group “Middletown.”  And six states have sub-poverty shares at or near a third of their workforces–all of these in the deep south.  I call this group “Lowroadistan.”  Indeed the 10 states with the highest low-wage shares are all “right-to-work” states; and Virginia is the only “right-to-work” state to crack the top 10 in the  over 300 percent category.

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