Employment & Wages

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America’s greatest economic resource lies in the skill and energy of its workforce, yet the productivity gains of recent decades have not translated into rising incomes for many working families. While incomes have increased by nearly 400 percent for the top 0.1 percent of Americans over the last forty years, annual earnings of the median American male have declined by 28 percent. This trajectory of unbalanced income growth has eroded middle-class living standards, restricted opportunities for lower-income households, and undermined the nation’s social fabric. The Hamilton Project explores innovative proposals that help create jobs, enhance productivity, and secure the promise of the American Dream that each generation can achieve more than the last.


Related to Employment & Wages

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Major Decisions: What Graduates Earn Over Their Lifetimes

Papers • September 2014 • Brad Hershbein, Melissa S. Kearney

The importance of a college education for the advancement of one’s life and career has been widely reported. However, there is much speculation about the likely trajectory of one’s lifetime earnings once they’ve chosen a major program to study.  To accompany a new interactive feature, The Hamilton Project explores the evidence behind career earnings by college major In this economic analysis.

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An Update to The Hamilton Project’s Jobs Gap Analysis

Papers • August 2014 • Benjamin H. Harris, Brad Hershbein, Melissa S. Kearney

Each month, The Hamilton Project calculates America’s “jobs gap,” or the number of jobs that the U.S. economy needs to create in order to return to pre-recession employment levels while absorbing the people who newly enter the labor force each month. In this month’s economic analysis, we have made changes to the appearance of the jobs gap chart and the methodology behind the jobs gap calculations. As of the end of July 2014, our nation faces a jobs gap of 5.7 million jobs.

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Policies to Address Poverty in America, eBook Download

Papers • June 2014

The Hamilton Project asked academic experts to develop policy proposals confronting the various challenges of America's poorest citizens, and to introduce innovative approaches to addressing poverty. When combined, the scope and impact of these proposals has the potential to vastly improve the lives of the poor. The resulting 14 policy memos are included in The Hamilton Project's Policies to Address Poverty in America. The main areas of focus include promoting early childhood development, supporting disadvantaged youth, building worker skills, and improving safety net and work support.
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Designing Thoughtful Minimum Wage Policy at the State and Local Levels

Papers • June 2014 • Arindrajit Dube

In this policy memo, Arindrajit Dube proposes that state and local governments consider median wages and local costs when setting minimum wages, index the minimum wage for inflation, and engage in regional wage setting. This proposal aims to raise the earnings of low-wage workers with minimal negative impacts on employment. This proposal is chapter thirteen of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Improving Safety Net and Work Support.

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Encouraging Work Sharing to Reduce Unemployment

Papers • June 2014 • Katharine Abraham, Susan Houseman

In this policy memo, Katharine G. Abraham and Susan N. Houseman propose that the federal government subsidize state work-sharing payments during economic downturns, make work sharing a requirement for state unemployment insurance systems, change federal requirements to modify provisions of state work-sharing plans that may discourage employer participation, and provide states with adequate funding to administer work-sharing programs. This proposal, targeted at workers who would otherwise become unemployed during cyclical downturns, aims to reduce the number of layoffs during economic downturns. This proposal is chapter twelve of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Improving Safety Net and Work Support.

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Building on the Success of the Earned Income Tax Credit

Papers • June 2014 • Hilary Hoynes

In this policy memo, Hilary Hoynes proposes expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) by raising the benefits for families with one child to be on par with the benefits for families with two children. This proposal aims to strengthen work incentives for low-income, one-child families; raise 410,000 people—including 131,000 children—out of poverty; and increase after-tax income by about $1,000 for one-child EITC beneficiaries, leading to improvements in health and children’s cognitive skills. This proposal is chapter eleven of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Improving Safety Net and Work Support.

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Providing Disadvantaged Workers with Skills to Succeed in the Labor Market

Papers • June 2014 • Sheena McConnell, Irma Perez-Johnson, Jillian Berk

In this policy memo, Sheena McConnell, Irma Perez-Johnson, and Jillian Berk offer proposals to help disadvantaged adult workers with the skills necessary to succeed in the labor market. The authors call for an increase in funding in the Workforce Investment Act Adult program. They also propose a series of four steps that state and local workforce boards can take to better assist disadvantaged adult workers in obtaining skills. This proposal is chapter nine of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Building Skills.

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Improving Employment Outcomes for Disadvantaged Students

Papers • June 2014 • Harry J. Holzer

In this policy memo, Harry J. Holzer proposes the creation of financial incentives for public colleges and university systems to offer classes in high-return fields and for employers to offer more training to their employees. This proposal, targeted at disadvantaged youth who have some academic preparation for higher education, aims to generate better labor market outcomes and wage gains. This proposal is chapter eight of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Building Skills.

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Expanding Apprenticeship Opportunities in the United States

Papers • June 2014 • Robert Lerman

In this policy memo, Robert I. Lerman proposes a series of targeted federal and state-level initiatives to expand access to registered apprenticeship programs by creating marketing initiatives, building on existing youth apprenticeship programs, extending the use of federal subsidies, and designating occupational standards. This proposal, targeted toward at-risk youth and middle-skill adults in low-wage jobs, aims to improve human capital and raise earnings for apprentices. This proposal is chapter seven of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Building Skills.

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Expanding Summer Employment Opportunities for Low-Income Youth

Papers • June 2014 • Amy Ellen Schwartz, Jacob Leos-Urbel

In this policy memo, Amy Ellen Schwartz and Jacob Leos-Urbel propose that the U.S. Department of Labor distribute federal grants to states for municipalities to provide summer employment to disadvantaged youth, first through a pilot program and then through a nationwide expansion. This proposal, targeted at low-income youth who are enrolled in or have recently graduated from high school, aims to increase school attendance, improve educational outcomes, and reduce violent behavior and crime. This proposal is chapter five of The Hamilton Project’s Policies to Address Poverty in America, and a segment in Supporting Disadvantaged Youth.

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Evolution of the “Jobs Gap” and Possible Scenarios for Growth

November 7, 2014 • Charts

Each month, The Hamilton Project calculates America’s “jobs gap,” or the number of jobs that the U.S. economy needs to create in order to return to pre-recession employment levels while absorbing the people who newly enter the labor force each month. As of the end of October 2014, our nation faces a jobs gap of 5.2 million jobs.

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State-by-State “Jobs Gap”

June 6, 2014 • Charts

Every month, The Hamilton Project tracks the “jobs gap,” which is the number of jobs that need to be created in order to return to pre-recession employment levels while still absorbing the workers entering the labor force each month. Here, the Project compares changes in employment levels since the onset of the Great Recession across states.

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Minimum Wage and Share of Workers Earning Equal to or Less Than 150 Percent of the Minimum Wage in 2012, by State

January 10, 2014 • Charts

Every state in the country has a substantial share of workers who would be impacted by an increase in the minimum wage. In 2012, Montana had the highest share of workers—37.2 percent—with wages equal to or less than 150 percent of the minimum wage. Even in Alaska, which boasts higher wages compared to the rest of the country, 16.9 percent of workers had wages equal to or lower than 150 percent of the minimum. Not surprisingly, the 18 states with a higher minimum wage level than the federal benchmark tended to have higher shares of workers with wages within 150 percent of the minimum wage. However, in every state in the country, at least one in six workers had wages that were equal to 150 percent of the minimum wage or lower. This chart shows the share of workers earning equal to or less than 150 percent of the minimum wage in every state in 2012. By hovering over a state, you can also see the minimum wage in 2012 in each state.

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Number of Unemployed per Job Opening

December 20, 2013 • Charts

 

Why is the job-finding rate so low? The basic reason is that job openings remain depressed and there are a lot of unemployed workers competing for those jobs. The number of job openings fell by more than 40 percent between 2007 and 2009 and is almost 15 percent lower between 2007 and 2013.

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Probability of Moving From Unemployed to Employed

December 20, 2013 • Charts

 

It has always been harder to find work the longer you are unemployed, but the situation facing today’s workers is exceptional. No matter how long a worker has been unemployed, the odds that they find a job are far lower than before the Great Recession. Figure 1 shows the likelihood of finding a job as measured in the monthly Current Population Survey data.

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Household Food spending as a Fraction of the Thrifty Food Plan Minimum Spending Target for Households under 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level

December 19, 2013 • Charts

SNAP is designed to supplement recipients’ purchasing power so that through a combination of SNAP benefits and their own spending out of available cash resources recipients can afford to purchase enough food to feed their families under the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP). However, the TFP minimum spending target for food is based on outdated and inappropriate assumptions. In particular, the TFP implicitly assumes that households have unlimited time to prepare food, and therefore are able to cook meals primarily from scratch instead of using prepared ingredients. Over the past twenty years the majority of low-income families spent more on food than would have been suggested by the cost of a minimally adequate food budget that the benefit formula is based on. This difference in spending compared to the TFP target may indicate that some families face higher food prices than those assumed by the TFP.

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Rates of Food Insecurity, 1998-2012

December 19, 2013 • Charts

SNAP benefits are an effective tool for mitigating food insecurity since they increase a family’s ability to purchase food. A recent study by USDA revealed that SNAP participation is associated with a reduction in overall food insecurity rates by 10 percentage points over a six-month period from the time a household enters the program. Furthermore, food insecurity rates for children decreased by about one-third during this same period. Hunger in the United States spiked both during and after the Great Recession. In 2012 over 14 percent of all households were food insecure at some point throughout the year. Furthermore, 20 percent of households with children experienced food insecurity. These rates increased nearly 35 percent from their pre-recession levels.

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Breakdown of Family Characteristics, by Income Relative to the Federal Poverty Level (FPL)

December 19, 2013 • Charts

Household composition of families in the struggling lower-middle class varies substantially from the household composition of families in poverty. Of families with income below the federal poverty level (FPL) (approximately 7.1 million families), 70 percent are headed by a single parent (61 percent are single female parents), 24 percent are headed by a married couple with one or two earners, and 6 percent are headed by a married couple with no earners. The composition of the struggling lower-middle class—defined here as working-age families with children under age eighteen whose income places them between 100 and 250 percent of the FPL—is markedly different from families in poverty in terms of marriage and presence of earners.

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Low-and Middle-Income Families See Little Benefit from Adding a Second Earner

December 19, 2013 • Charts

This figure displays the percentage of income generated by the addition of a secondary earner’s income that a family takes home after accounting for payroll and federal income taxes, SNAP benefits, and the cost of child care. Each set of bars represents a family of four (two adults, two children) headed by a full-time worker that earns between 100 and 250 percent of the federal minimum wage (i.e., $15,080 to $37,700 annually). The green and purple bars represent the take-home earnings generated from adding a part-time and full-time secondary earner, respectively, with the same hourly wage. In all eight scenarios represented, a family ultimately keeps less than half of the earnings generated by the secondary earner.

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Highest Educational Attainment of Family Head, by Income Relative to the Federal Poverty Level (FPL)

December 19, 2013 • Charts

College attainment differs markedly by poverty status. 33 percent of household family heads below 100 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) attended at least some college, although just 6 percent of those family heads have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Among household family heads with income between 100 and 250 percent of the FPL, 48 percent have attended some college, and 14 percent have a bachelor’s degree or higher. In stark contrast to those living at or below 250 percent of the FPL, 77 percent of household family heads above 250 percent of the FPL attended at least some college, and about half have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Only a very small share of this group (4 percent) did not earn a high school diploma.

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Testimony of Melissa S. Kearney

January 16, 2014 • Melissa S. Kearney

The Hamilton Project Director, Melissa S. Kearney testifies before the Joint Economic Committee on income inequality in the United States.

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Testimony of Alan S. Blinder

January 26, 2012 • Alan S. Blinder

Advisory Council member Alan S. Blinder testifies before the Senate Budget Committee on his views on the economy and budget.

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Opportunities and Challenges in the U.S. Labor Market

July 17, 2014 • Washington, DC

On July 17, THP hosted CEA Chairman Jason Furman to discuss a new report on opportunities & challenges in the U.S. labor market. Furman was joined by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin and economist Alan Blinder of Princeton University for a roundtable discussion.
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Day Two: Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis

June 20, 2014 • Washington, DC

On Friday, June 20, The Hamilton Project continued its two-day anti-poverty summit, Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis. Day two of the summit focused on policies to improve the safety net and work support, including the role of work-share and minimum wage policies to support American workers.

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Day One: Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis

June 19, 2014 • Washington, DC

Day one of Addressing America's Poverty Crisis opened on Thursday, June 19, with discussions around policies to build skills, promote early childhood development, and support disadvantaged youth. The day kicked off with a CEO-level discussion on the importance of apprenticeship and skill training, followed by three roundtable discussions featuring academic scholars and experts. 

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Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis

June 19, 2014 • Washington, DC

On June 19–20, The Hamilton Project hosted a summit to discuss a range of policy approaches for combating poverty in the United States.  The Hamilton Project released 14 proposals from experts around the country, each intended to tackle a specific challenge related to poverty, including new approaches to building skills, promoting early childhood development, and supporting disadvantaged youth. The authors of the new proposals were joined by public and private sector experts to discuss these ideas as part of our two-day event.

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The Economic and Social Effects of Crime and Mass Incarceration in the United States

May 1, 2014 • Washington, DC

On May 1st, The Hamilton Project at Brookings will host a forum and release three new papers focusing on crime and incarceration in the United States. Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin will deliver opening remarks, and Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) will join the forum to discuss the Smarter Sentencing Act of 2014, which was recently passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee with bi-partisan support.

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Supporting America’s Lower-Middle-Class Families

December 4, 2013 • Washington, DC

More than half of American families earn $60,000 or less a year -- outside of poverty but with limited economic security. Many of these families rely on government programs for support and one major setback could throw their lives into chaos. On December 4th, The Hamilton Project hosted a forum to highlight two new proposals for aiding America’s lower middle class families featuring a diverse range of experts.

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Improving College Outcomes: A Modern Approach to Financing Higher Education

October 21, 2013 • Washington, DC

On October 21st, THP hosted a forum and release three new policy proposals by outside experts focusing on the evolving role of higher education, and how changes in student lending and financial aid policies can help improve college outcomes. Thought leaders in higher education from around the country—including Vassar College President Catharine Bond Hill; LaGuardia Community College President Gail Mellow; University of North Carolina President Thomas Ross; Wesleyan University President Michael Roth; and Brookings’ Brown Center for Education Policy Director Grover “Russ” Whitehurst—joined the discussion to comment on the proposals, and provided their thoughts on the future of higher education in American society.

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Investing in What Works: The Importance of Evidence-Based Policymaking

April 17, 2013 • Washington, DC 20001

On April 17th, The Hamilton Project at Brookings and Results for America, an initiative of America Achieves, co-hosted a forum and released two new papers on the important role of evidence in policymaking. U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), U.S. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), Alan Krueger, Chair of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, and other distinguished experts participated in roundtable discussions on the proposals and how evidence-based policymaking can improve the effectiveness of federally funded programs.

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Extending Unemployment Insurance — A Live Web Chat with THP Policy Director Adam Looney

December 5, 2012 • Online Chat

The lame-duck Congress has a long “to-do” list in the final month of the year. Negotiations on a compromise to avoid the fiscal cliff are underway, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are also discussing whether or not to extend unemployment insurance for 12 million unemployed Americans before the benefits expire on December 29. What are the economic consequences of failing to extend unemployment benefits? Who will be most affected? What weight should we give to news from the Congressional Budget Office that extending benefits will add more than 300,000 jobs to the economy? On Wednesday, December 5, THP Policy Director Adam Looney will take your questions in a live web chat moderated by Vivyan Tran at POLITICO. For more information or to register for the webchat, click here.

Submit questions in advance to communications@brookings.edu.

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Back to School:  Promoting Attainment and Achievement in K-12 Education

September 27, 2012 • Washington, DC

On September 27th, The Hamilton Project at Brookings hosted a forum to discuss new approaches to promoting attainment and achievement in K-12 education.  The event included featured remarks by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, highlighting recent progress on education reform, the difficult work still ahead, and the need for innovation to help advance reform efforts. 

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Evolution of the “Jobs Gap” and Possible Scenarios for Growth

November 7, 2014 • Charts

Each month, The Hamilton Project calculates America’s “jobs gap,” or the number of jobs that the U.S. economy needs to create in order to return to pre-recession employment levels while absorbing the people who newly enter the labor force each month. As of the end of October 2014, our nation faces a jobs gap of 5.2 million jobs.

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Opportunities and Challenges in the U.S. Labor Market - Photo Gallery

July 17, 2014 • Photo Galleries

On July 17th, the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) released a new report about the change in labor force participation and how it relates to the underlying demographic, structural, and cyclical trends affecting the labor market. CEA Chairman Jason Furman joined The Hamilton Project for a forum in Washington, DC to discuss the report and the implications these labor force changes have for outstanding challenges like lowering long-term unemployment, raising wages, and expanding the economy's potential. Following Furman’s featured remarks, he was joined by former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin and Princeton University economist Alan Blinder for a roundtable discussion. 

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Opportunities and Challenges in the U.S. Labor Market - Introduction

July 17, 2014 • Video

On July 17th, the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) released a new report about the change in labor force participation and how it relates to the underlying demographic, structural and cyclical trends affecting the labor market. CEA Chairman Jason Furman joined The Hamilton Project to discuss the report and the implications these labor force changes have for outstanding challenges like lowering long-term unemployment, raising wages, and expanding the economy's potential. Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin opened the forum.

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Opportunities and Challenges in the U.S. Labor Market - Introduction (Audio)

July 17, 2014 • Audio

On July 17th, the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) released a new report about the change in labor force participation and how it relates to the underlying demographic, structural and cyclical trends affecting the labor market. CEA Chairman Jason Furman joined The Hamilton Project to discuss the report and the implications these labor force changes have for outstanding challenges like lowering long-term unemployment, raising wages, and expanding the economy's potential. Former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin opened the forum.

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Opportunities and Challenges in the U.S. Labor Market - Featured Remarks by Jason Furman (Audio)

July 17, 2014 • Audio

On July 17th, the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) released a new report about the change in labor force participation and how it relates to the underlying demographic, structural and cyclical trends affecting the labor market. CEA Chairman Jason Furman joined The Hamilton Project to discuss the report and the implications these labor force changes have for outstanding challenges like lowering long-term unemployment, raising wages, and expanding the economy's potential. 

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Opportunities and Challenges in the U.S. Labor Market - Roundtable Discussion with Blinder, Furman, and Rubin (Audio)

July 17, 2014 • Audio

On July 17th, The Hamilton Project hosted Jason Furman, Chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), to discuss the release of a new CEA report about the change in labor force participation. Following his featured remarks, Furman was joined by Robert E. Rubin, former U.S. Treasury Secretary, and Alan Blinder, Professor of Economics & Public Affairs at Princeton University and a former Federal Reserve Board Vice Chair, for a roundtable discussion. 

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Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis - Day 2, Welcoming Remarks Audio

June 20, 2014 • Audio

On June 20, The Hamilton Project started day two of Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis, and introduced dynamic policy proposals focusing on ways to improve the U.S. safety net and provide support for low-wage workers. Roger Altman, Founder & Executive Chairman of Evercore, opened the forum and introduced the first panel.

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Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis - Day 2, Panel 1 Audio

June 20, 2014 • Audio

Day two of The Hamilton Project’s anti-poverty summit, Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis, focused on policy proposals to improve safety net and work support. The first panel of the day discussed expansions to the Earned Income Tax Credit, reforms to the Child and Dependent  care tax credit, and the potential benefits of predictive analytics and rapid-cycle evaluation to improve social services. The authors, Scott Cody of Mathematica Policy Research, Hilary Hoynes of UC Berkely, and James Ziliak of the University of Kentucky, were joined in the roundtable discussion by Gordon Berlin of MDRC, and Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Director of The Hamilton Project, Melissa Kearney, moderated the discussion.

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Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis - Day 2, Panel 2 Audio

June 20, 2014 • Audio

The second panel for day two of Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis focused on minimum wage policy at the state and local levels, and reducing unemployment through work sharing. Authors Arindrajit Dube of the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Katharine Abraham of the University of Maryland introduced their proposals, and were joined by Jared Bernstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and Gregory Mankiw of Harvard University. Christopher Edley, Jr. of UC Berkely moderated the discussion.

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Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis - Day 2, Welcoming Remarks

June 20, 2014 • Video

On June 20, The Hamilton Project continued day two of Addressing America’s Poverty Crisis, and introduced dynamic policy proposals focusing on ways to improve the U.S. safety net and provide support for low-wage workers. Roger Altman, Founder & Executive Chairman of Evercore, opened the forum and introduced the first panel.

Hamilton Project Updates

A periodic newsletter of events, policy briefs, and working papers from The Hamilton Project.