The Wages of Exclusion: Low-Wage Work and Inequality

Source: Heather Boushey and Shawn Fremstad, New Labor Forum, Vol. 17, Issue 2, Summer 2008

In the United States, low-wage work is commonly defined by referencing the federal poverty line. According to this definition, a low-wage job is one that paid less than $9.83 an hour in 2006. Yet, there is near-unanimous consensus among researchers and policy advocates that the poverty line is a deply flawed measure. Reflecting this consensus, economist Rebecca Blank recently wrote: “It is not too strong a statement to say that, forty-three years after they were developed, the poverty thresholds are nonsensical numbers.” … In this article, we look to establish firmer foundations than the poverty line to define low-wage work.

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