Employment is the primary pathway out of poverty for most non-elderly adults in the United States. After peaking near 10 percent in late 2009, the U.S. unemployment rate fell in the spring of 2015 to 5.5 percent, suggesting that economic conditions and work opportunities have recently improved considerably for workers. Still, concerns persist about the high proportion of under-employed households headed by working-age adults and stagnant wages among those at the lower end of the skill and income distributions. The large majority of new jobs opening since the trough of the Great Recession have been in low-paying service sectors.
The Smith Richardson Foundation provided funding to the University of Texas at Austin Center for Health and Social Policy (CHASP) and the Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison to engage the best minds in the country in addressing this broad issue: How can we build economic self-sufficiency among working families and the disadvantaged, while simultaneously meeting the labor demand needs of employers, through policies and programs that increase labor market skills, employment, wages, and earnings?
The challenges of the recent Great Recession—fiscal austerity, high unemployment, declining real wages and depreciating skills among those out of work—stimulated widespread public debate about the range of economic and human capital development policies to address them, such as fiscal stimulus, post-secondary education and workforce training programs, minimum wages and hiring credits, unemployment insurance and stronger work supports. Although there is little disagreement with the idea that there is potential to benefit from greater investments in human capital and in programs and policies that support work and families, limited resources necessarily constrain their scope and generosity.
This initiative sought to stimulate fresh and innovative thinking about the most cost-effective ways for building skills and increasing earnings potential among the disadvantaged, as well as to generate new evidence on the most promising, evidence-based strategies for improving employment opportunities and the well-being of workers and their families. Funding from the Smith-Richardson Foundation also supported four separate conferences and policy briefings in which state, local and national policymakers were brought together with researchers and other members of the public to engage in these discussions and generate compelling and credible policy recommendations. Below you will find resources produced to help disseminate the knowledge and policy findings generated in this initiative.
Initiative Projects: (click for all)
- Minimum Wages and the Distribution of Family Incomes
- Vocational and Career Tech Education in American High Schools: Curriculum Choice and Labor Market Outcomes
- The Potential Effects of Federal Health Insurance Reforms on Employment Arrangements and Compensation
- Should Public Policies Encourage Employer-Led Training? Can They Do So?
- Getting Ahead versus Getting By with the Earned Income Tax Credit
- The Effect of Career and Technical Education on Human Capital Accumulation
- Career Technical Education & Labor Market Outcomes
- The Labor Market and the Marriage Market
- The Great Recession and its Aftermath
- The Changing Safety Net for Low Income Parents and Their Children
- State Hiring Credits and Recent Job Growth
- Is it worth it? Postsecondary education and labor market outcomes for the disadvantaged
- Cash-on-Hand & College Enrollment
- Policy Levers to Increase Jobs and Increase Income from Work after the Great Recession