What if the public assistance recipient can find and take full-time employment? Does this guarantee that the individual can earn enough money to support his or her family at or above the poverty line if the individual remains employed? The chances are that the individual will not be able to because most public assistance recipients are poorly prepared for labor market entry, which limits the types of jobs they can get. These jobs are mostly in service-based, entry-level, low-skilled occupations, which pay relatively low wages and benefits, compared to the wages and benefits of jobs in higher skilled occupations.
Leete and Bania found that entry level workers in these occupations in the Cleveland-Akron MSA were paid only $4.04 per hour in 1990, or $4.70 per hour in 1995 terms (1995a). According to Leete and Bania, $4.75 per hour was not enough of an hourly wage in 1995 to allow an individual to provide for two children above the poverty line which they estimated to be $12,343. A single parent working full-time (2,000 hours per year) must earn at least $6.17 per hour in order to support two children at or above the poverty level (Leete and Bania, 1995a). As children are added to the family, the wage needed to remain above poverty increases to $7.91 or $9.35 per hour with three or four children, respectively.