Wages

The vast majority of American households’ income comes from what workers receive in their paychecks – which is why wages are so important. Unfortunately, wages for most workers grew exceptionally slowly between 1979 and 2012, despite productivity—which essentially measures the economy’s potential for providing rising living standards for all—rising 64 percent. In other words, most Americans, even those with college degrees, have only been treading water—despite working more productively (and being better educated) than ever.

EARN groups provide key research and policy analysis describing how these trends have played out at the state and local levels, and what policymakers can do about it.

Publications

The Case for a County Minimum Wage

Inaction by Congress and state legislatures has led many cities and counties to adopt a local
minimum wage. We show that a $15 county minimum wage, phased in by 2020, would raise the
incomes of at least 19,300 workers in Johnson County and 24,300 in Linn County; the majority
would be full-time workers over age 20, and many would have families. This in turn would
increase spending in local retail and service establishments, boosting the local economy

Women and Economic Security in Mississippi: A Data Brief

Across the United States, many women face disparities in wages and employment while providing for their families and balancing child care and other family responsibilities. The growing number of families headed by single mothers exacerbates these issues. In Mississippi, the prevalence of poverty, births to unmarried parents, and the interaction between gender and race disparities makes these challenges particularly detrimental to the state’s families. Attention is being paid on a national level to the gender pay gap and paid family leave. This data brief focuses on the status of women and economic security in Mississippi to inform policy development that addresses the unique challenges of women and families in Mississippi.

Low wages, high turnover in Ohio’s home-care industry

Home-care aides — providers of hands-on care to older adults and people with disabilities — are one of Ohio’s fastest growing occupations, growing at more than five times the rate of overall jobs in the economy. Home-health and personal-care jobs continued to grow during the last two recessions, and the numbers of workers employed in the industry has nearly tripled since 2001. According to the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI), Ohio now has approximately 86,000 home-care aides, including 66,000 home-health aides, and 20,000 personal-care aides.

Rapid growth of the home-care industry is largely good news. Given most people’s preference for in-home care and the fact that home-based services are less expensive than institutional care, growth of the home-care industry is largely a win-win.

However, the home care industry is riddled with high turnover rates, workforce vacancies and related quality-of-care issues. This is largely the result of low job satisfaction due to low wages, part-time and unpredictable hours, and a lack of benefits that come with the job. In order to serve the growing public demand for these services, while ensuring continuity and quality of care, policymakers must address the need for better wages and benefits in the industry.

The Minimum Wage in Massachusetts: Challenges & Opportunities

The Massachusetts economy is stronger when all working families can make ends meet. Unfortunately, since the 1970s, wages have generally stopped growing with the economy and many working families find it difficult to pay for basic needs. As shown in the graph below, hourly wages grew in tandem with productivity during the late 1940’s to the early 1970’s. During this period economic gains were broadly shared by the very workers who helped create this growth. Yet, after 1973, while productivity continued to grow, wages for most workers did not.