INTRODUCTION - Until recently, scholars argued that different welfare state regimes create different kinds of poverty. The typical face of poverty in liberal welfare states such as the USA is that of the working poor. The relatively large number of working poor in the USA is a consequence of the central characteristics of a liberal welfare state (Esping-Andersen, 1990). The combination of marginal social protection and low minimum wages creates a situation in which vulnerable people are often forced to work but remain poor (Jencks, 2005; Neubeck, 2006). On the other hand, because of the low wage levels in the USA, there is ample low-skilled and low-paid work available for those people who depend on this segment of the labour market. Such jobs are often lacking in the more developed welfare states of the European continent. As a result, there are many US citizens who work but are nevertheless poor. Moreover, working poor individuals often have to combine several low-paid jobs in order to make ends meet – a situation that has been vividly described in ethnographic studies about the American working poor (Ehrenreich, 2002; Newman, 1999; Venkatesh, 2006).

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Edward Elgar: Cheltenham / Aldershot, UK/ Northampton, MA, USA
Department of Sociology

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