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Can low-wage workers find better jobs?

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Abstract

There is growing concern over rising economic inequality, the decline of the middle class, and a polarization of the U.S. workforce. This study examines the extent to which low-wage workers in the United States transition to better jobs, and explores the factors associated with such a move up the job ladder. Using data covering the expansion following the Great Recession (2011-17) and focusing on short-term labor market transitions, we find that around 70 percent of low-wage workers stayed in the same job, 11 percent exited the labor force, 7 percent became unemployed, and 6 percent switched to a different low-wage job. Troublingly, just slightly more than 5 percent of low-wage workers found a better job within a 12-month period. Study results point to the importance of educational attainment in helping low-wage workers move up the job ladder.

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  • Jaison R. Abel & Richard Florida & Todd M. Gabe, 2018. "Can low-wage workers find better jobs?," Staff Reports 846, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fednsr:846
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    Cited by:

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    2. Leslie Hodges, 2018. "Who is Covered by Unemployment Insurance?," Research in Applied Economics, Macrothink Institute, vol. 10(3), pages 24-51, September.
    3. Landivar, Liana Christin & Beckhusen, Julia, 2019. "Racial Disparities in Women's Mobility out of Retail and Service Occupations," SocArXiv ykufd, Center for Open Science.
    4. von Borries, Alvaro & Grillitsch, Markus & Lundquist, Karl-Johan, 2022. "Geographies of Low-Income Jobs: The concentration of low-income jobs, the knowledge economy and labor market polarization in Sweden, 1990-2018," Papers in Innovation Studies 2022/4, Lund University, CIRCLE - Centre for Innovation Research.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    low-wage jobs; career ladder; labor market dynamics;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • J01 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General - - - Labor Economics: General
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J61 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Geographic Labor Mobility; Immigrant Workers
    • J62 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Job, Occupational and Intergenerational Mobility; Promotion

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