The chart below provides an interesting perspective on the U.S. labor market and poverty. It comes from an OECD publication called Society At A Glance 2011 — OECD Social Indicators. The publication is well worth some study–it offers a wealth of useful comparative information.
The chart illustrates the percentage of the average gross wage in each country necessary to bring a family to the poverty line, which is defined as an amount equal to 60 percent of the national median income. The greater the percentage needed the more difficult it is for a family to climb out of poverty.
For example, if the percentage was 100%, it would mean that a worker earning the averge gross wage (before taxes) would just reach the poverty level (defined as above in relative national terms). Such a high percentage implies that many workers would find it very difficult to escape poverty.
As one can see in the chart above, workers in the United States face far greater obstacles to escaping poverty than do workers in most of the other OECD countries.