Income

The rise in inequality experienced in the United States in the past three-and-a-half decades is not just a story of those in the financial sector in the greater New York City metropolitan area reaping outsized rewards from speculation in financial markets. While many of the highest-income families do live in states such as New York and Connecticut, IRS data make clear that rising inequality and increases in top 1 percent incomes affect every state.

The rise between 1979 and 2007 in top 1 percent incomes relative to the bottom 99 percent represents a sharp reversal of the trend that prevailed in the mid-20th century. This earlier era was characterized by a rising minimum wage, low levels of unemployment after the 1930s, widespread collective bargaining in private industries, and a cultural and political environment in which it was outrageous for executives to receive outsized bonuses while laying off workers. Today, millions of Americans feel tremendous anxiety about their grasp on the American Dream.

Publications

Inequality and Economic Security in Silicon Valley

This report is intended to take an in-depth look at the dimensions of income inequality (referred to throughout this report as “inequality”) in Silicon Valley and key trends over time. The report begins by addressing why income inequality should matter to Silicon Valley, followed by an analysis of trends in widening income inequality over the long term and in the most recent period. An analysis of long-term trends over the past 25 years (1989-2014) shows that widening income inequality is not just a recent phenomenon in Silicon Valley. At the same time focusing on just the most recent period for which data are available (2009-2014) reveals that trends in widening income inequality have been exacerbated even as the region has recovered from the Great Recession. The combination of long- and short-term trends point to the need for public policy responses that combat these trends, help mitigate the effects of increasing economic insecurity, and create a foundation for sustainable economic growth. This report highlights areas for state and local policy action to help ensure that households across the income distribution benefit more from Silicon Valley’s economic growth, while investing in housing options and transportation networks that better help these families live and thrive in the region.

The Big Rig Overhaul: Restoring Middle-Class Jobs at America’s Ports Though Labor Law Enforcement

Our research found the dire working conditions of port truck drivers to have flowed from the practice of treating employees as if they were ‘independent contractors,’ an illegal practice called misclassification. At the time of our first report, there were practically no official government investigations to verify our findings despite a host of enforcement agencies being responsible for preventing misclassification.

That has now changed. Our findings match those coming from recent investigations of employment practices common in the industry by the United States Department of Labor, the Internal Revenue Service, the National Labor Relations Board, and various state agencies. More importantly, these investigations signal a new dynamic, one with practical ramifications for the organization of work in the industry as well as for broader discussions of inequality in this country.

Raise LA: How Good Hotel Jobs Will Boost Local Businesses, Strengthen Neighborhoods and Renew Our Economy

Poverty jobs in LA’s hotels are exacerbating the problem of poverty throughout the city. Workplace standards for tens of thousands of LA’s hotel workers remain among the lowest of the city’s major employment sectors. Hotel workers are a key piece of LA’s highly successful tourism industry, but maintaining standards for workers has been largely ignored as hotel operators have focused intensely on boosting their bottom lines by increasing worker productivity.

Establishing a minimum wage for workers in LA’s large hotels will directly address the problem of growing poverty in the city of Los Angeles and will stimulate our local economy by an estimated $71 million per year in increased local consumer spending and related economic activity.