Working and Poor: How Economic and Policy Changes Are Affecting Low-Wage Workers

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Over the last three decades, large-scale economic developments, such as technological change, the decline in unionization, and changing skill requirements, have exacted their biggest toll on low-wage workers. These workers often possess few marketable skills and few resources with which to support themselves during periods of economic transition. In Working and Poor, a distinguished group of economists and policy experts, headlined by editors Rebecca Blank, Sheldon Danziger, and Robert Schoeni, examine how economic and policy changes over the last twenty-five years have affected the well-being of low-wage workers and their families.

Working and Poor examines every facet of the economic well-being of less-skilled workers, from employment and earnings opportunities to consumption behavior and social assistance policies. Rebecca Blank and Heidi Schierholz document the different trends in work and wages among less-skilled women and men. Between 1979 and 2003, labor force participation rose rapidly for these women, along with more modest increases in wages, while among the men both employment and wages fell. David Card and John DiNardo review the evidence on how technological changes have affected less-skilled workers and conclude that the effect has been smaller than many observers claim. Philip Levine examines the effectiveness of the Unemployment Insurance program during recessions. He finds that the program’s eligibility rules, which deny benefits to workers who have not met minimum earnings requirements, exclude the very people who require help most and should be adjusted to provide for those with the highest need. On the other hand, Therese J. McGuire and David F. Merriman show that government help remains a valuable source of support during economic downturns. They find that during the most recent recession in 2001, when state budgets were stretched thin, legislatures resisted political pressure to cut spending for the poor.

Working and Poor provides a valuable analysis of the role that public policy changes can play in improving the plight of the working poor. A comprehensive analysis of trends over the last twenty-five years, this book provides an invaluable reference for the public discussion of work and poverty in America.

A Volume in the National Poverty Center Series on Poverty and Public Policy

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Product Details

Meet the Author

REBECCA M. BLANK is codirector of the National Poverty Center and dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, Henry Carter Adams Collegiate Professor of Public Policy, and professor of economics at the University of Michigan.

SHELDON H. DANZIGER is Henry J. Meyer Distinguished University Professor of Public Policy and codirector of the National Poverty Center at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan.

ROBERT F. SCHOENI is research associate professor at the Institute for Social Research, associate professor of Economics and Public Policy, at the University of Michigan.

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Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Introduction: Work and Poverty During the Past Quarter Century
Rebecca Blank/Sheldon Danziger/Robert Schoeni
Part I. What is Changing (and Why) in the Labor Market for Low-Skilled Workers?
1. Exploring Gender Differences in Employment and Wage Trends Among Less-
Skilled Workers
Rebecca M. Blank/Heidi Shierholz
2. Wage Trends among Disadvantaged Minorities
George J. Borjas
Part II. How do Economic Trends Affect Less-Skilled Workers?
3. The Macroeconomy and Determinants of the Earnings of Less-Skilled Workers
Robert Hall
4. The Impact of Technological Change on Low-Wage Workers: A Review
David Card/John DiNardo
5. The Changing Pattern of Wage Growth for Low Skilled Workers
Eric French/Bhashkar Mazumder/Christopher Taber
Part III. How do Macroeconomic Changes Influence Well-Being Measures Beyond
6. The Level and Composition of Consumption Over the Business Cycle: The Role of "Quasi-fixed" Expenditures
Kerwin Kofi Charles/Melvin Stephens Jr.
7. Recent Trends in Resource Sharing among the Poor
Steven J. Haider/Kathleen McGarry
8. Economic Conditions and Children's Living Arrangements
Rebecca A. London/Robert W. Fairlie
Part IV. How do Policy Changes Interact with the Economy and Economic Well-being?
9. How do Tax Policies Affect Low-income Workers?
Kevin A. Hassett/Anne Moore
10. State Spending on Social Assistance Programs Over the Business Cycle
Therese J. McGuire/David F. Merriman
11. Temporary Agency Employment as a Way out of Poverty?
David Autor/Susan Houseman
12. Child Support and the Economy
Maria Cancian/Daniel R. Meyer
13. Unemployment Insurance over the Business Cycle: Does it Meet the Needs of
Less-Skilled Workers?
Phillip B. Levine
14. How is Health Insurance Affected by the Economy? Public and Private Coverage among Low-skilled Adults in the 1990s
Helen Levy
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