Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Economics Dept.


Michael R. Donihue

Second Advisor

Philip H. Brown


Despite being one of the world’s most prosperous countries, the United States of America was home to roughly 7.7 million households living in poverty in 2006. Of this figure, 53% percent of households were headed by a single mother. What is more disturbing is that a significant majority of these households were those of full time workers, unable to meet the basic needs of their families at federally mandated minimum wage rates. Researchers and activists from a multitude of disciplines have repeatedly called for an overhaul of the current method of estimating poverty in the United States` and further proposed a variety of tools for its revaluation. This paper makes use of some of those tools to motivate an analysis of demographic differences in household expenditure on basic necessities as a way of bringing the plight of these families into the spotlight being cast on issues of poverty. Using recently released data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, this paper looks at the how certain demographic characteristics affect household expenditure and which categories of expenditure put a family at risk of falling (albeit unnoticed) below a more realistic measure of poverty than the one currently in use.


poverty, working poor, demographics

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