Center for Social Policy Report Suggests Modernizing Anti-poverty Programs
February 24, 2012
Michelle von Vogler
Center for Social Policy Senior Research Fellow Randy Albelda and coauthor Michael Carr examine thirty-year trends in the share of workers who earn low wages and live in a low-income family in a newly released working paper, "Low-Wage and Low-Income Workers In The U.S., 1979-2009." Despite increases among all workers, employer benefits and anti-poverty programs are least likely to cover these workers, suggesting a need to modernize both to reach the growing numbers of workers falling through the cracks.
Three decades of stagnating earnings for bottom deciles of male wage earners and 1990s anti-poverty policies promoting employment among poor single mothers suggest increases in the ranks of low-wage breadwinners living in low-income households. Low-wage workers often get few employer-sponsored benefits, while anti-poverty programs target poor non-earners; these factors suggest low-wage and low-income workers may be unprotected by employer or government supports.
Using the Annual Economic and Social Extracts of the Current Population Survey (CPS) from 1980-2010, the authors explore changes in low-income and low-wage earners by gender and family status. The authors find a growth in low-wage and low-income workers for all family statuses over the last three decades, controlling for demographic and human capital characteristics. They also find that for a set of employer and government supports, these workers are the most likely to fall “betwixt and between” eligibility for anti-poverty supports and receiving employer benefits.
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