Fifty-three percent of workers earning less than $12.16 an hour—the bottom 30% of U.S. wage earners—now rely on government assistance to make ends meet, according to data from the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think-tank.
That compares with 29% for all wage earners.
"There is an enduring myth that people who rely on public assistance are unwilling to work," the EPI's David Cooper writes. "However, there are 41.2 million working Americans (nearly 30% of the workforce) who receive public assistance—and nearly half of these workers (19.3 million) have full-time jobs."
Here's the chart:
"When corporations pay wages so low that working people must rely on public assistance, taxpayers are effectively subsidizing these companies to make up the difference between what workers make and what they need to support themselves and their families," Cooper writes. "Meanwhile, corporations continue to post extraordinarily high profits and CEOs’ salaries continue to climb."
The institute recommends raising the minimum wage as a starting point to ending reliance on government assistance. The resulting freed-up taxpayer resources could be used to fund a host of anti-poverty and education initiatives, the institute says.
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.