Characteristics of Low-Wage Workers and Their Labor Market Experiences: Evidence from the Mid- to Late 1990s. Changes Over Time

04/30/2004

Did the characteristics of low-wage workers change between 1996 and 1999 as the unemployment rate decreased and more states implemented PRWORA provisions? The answer to this question appears to be no. The distribution of low-wage workers across key subgroups remained reasonably constant over time (Table III.6). In particular, the fraction of low-wage workers who were female, young, poor, and in households with single adults with children did not change appreciably during the mid- to late 1990s. Thus, changes in the unemployment rate and the implementation of new welfare rules that led many welfare recipients to leave welfare for work did not appear to affect the composition of the low-wage population. These results suggest that our empirical results about the characteristics of the low-wage population may be representative of the low-wage population under a weaker economy, although fully examining this issue is beyond the scope of this study.

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