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

04/30/2004

  • Workers in households with single adults with children are more likely to hold low-wage jobs than workers in other types of households. In March 1996, about 44 percent of female workers in single-parent households held low-wage jobs (Figure III.5 and Table III.4). These single parents, who account for a significant share of the TANF population, make up about 18 percent of all female low-wage workers
    (Table III.5).
  • Married male workers have substantially lower rates of low-wage employment than unmarried male workers. For instance, under 20 percent of married male workers were in low-wage jobs compared with over 30 percent of unmarried male workers (Figure III.5). Interestingly, the marriage effects for males hold for both those with and without children. The wage differences between married and unmarried workers are much smaller for female than male workers.

Figure III.5.
Percentage Of All 1996 Workers Who Were Low-Wage Workers
Within Household Groups, By Gender
 
Figure III.5. Percentage Of All 1996 Workers Who Were Low-Wage Workers Within Household Groups, By Gender
Source: SIPP March cross-sectional samples.
Note: All figures were calculated using the 1996 calendar year weight.

Table III.4.
Percentage Of All 1996 Workers Who Were Low-Wage Workers Within
Key Household Subgroups, By Gender
(Percentages)
Individual Subgroup Males(a) Females(a) Full Sample(a)
Percent of All Workers Who Were Low-Wage Workers 22 35 28
Household Type
   Single adults with children 36 44 42
   Married couples with children 18 36 26
   Married couples without children 20 30 25
   Other adults without children 29 31 30
Household Size
   1 22 26 24
   2 20 30 25
   3 25 37 30
   4 or more 23 39 30
Age of the Youngest Child in the Household (in Years for Those with Children)
   Younger than 3 22 41 30
   3 to 6 20 41 29
   6 to 12 18 37 27
   13 to 18 24 36 30
Other Employed Adult Lives in the Household
   No 23 35 28
   Yes 22 34 28
Has a Spouse Who Earns (for Those Married)
   No 28 45 33
   Yes 14 31 22
Received Public Assistance in the Past Year
   No 22 34 27
   Yes 51 66 58
In Public or Subsidized Housing
   No 22 34 27
   Yes 58 73 67
Household Income as a Percentage of the Poverty Level
   100 percent or less 73 84 79
   101 to 200 percent 50 65 57
   More than 200 percent 15 26 20
   Sample Size of All Workers 16,186 14,544 30,730
Source: SIPP 1996 March cross-sectional samples.
Note: All figures are weighted using the 1996 calendar year weight.
a. The interpretation of the statistics can be illustrated using the household income figures, which show that, in 1996, 73 percent of male workers and 79 percent of female workers in households with incomes below the poverty level were low-wage workers.

Table III.5.
Distribution Of Household Characteristics Of Low- Wage And
All Workers In March 1996, By Gender
(Percentages)
Individual Subgroup Males Workers(a) Females Workers(a) All Workers(a)
Low-Wage All Wage Levels Low-Wage All Wage Levels Low-Wage All Wage Levels
Household Type
   Single adults with children 10 6 18 14 15 10
   Married couples with children 36 43 39 37 37 40
   Married couples without children 26 29 25 28 25 29
   Other adults without children 28 22 18 21 23 21
Household Size
   1 10 10 7 10 8 10
   2 24 28 27 32 26 29
   3 24 22 24 23 24 22
   4 or more 41 41 41 36 41 39
Age of the Youngest Child in the Household (in Years for Those with Children)
   Younger than 3 30 27 25 23 27 25
   3 to 6 20 21 22 20 21 21
   6 to 12 28 33 34 35 31 34
   13 to 18 22 20 20 21 21 20
Other Employed Adult Lives in the Household
   No 32 31 27 27 30 29
   Yes 68 69 73 73 70 71
Has a Spouse Who Earns (for Those Married)
   No 52 35 23 17 35 27
   Yes 48 65 77 83 65 73
Received Public Assistance in the Past Year
   No 96 98 96 98 96 98
   Yes 4 2 4 2 4 2
In Public or Subsidized Housing
   No 98 99 97 99 98 99
   Yes 2 1 3 1 2 1
Household Income as a Percentage of the Poverty Level
   100 percent or less 14 4 12 5 13 5
   101 to 200 percent 31 14 27 14 29 14
   More than 200 percent 55 82 61 81 59 81
   Sample Size of All Workers 4,389 16,186 6,088 14,544 10,477 30,730
Source: SIPP 1996 March cross-sectional samples.
Note: All figures are weighted using the 1996 calendar year weight.
a. The interpretation of the statistics can be illustrated using the household type figures, which show that 10 percent of all male low-wage workers and 18 percent of all female low-wage workers lived in single-adult households with children.
  • Workers in larger households are more likely to be in low-wage jobs, a result driven by females but not males. For instance, nearly 40 percent of female workers in larger households were in low-wage jobs compared with about 26 to 30 percent in smaller households (Table III.4). Interestingly, larger households have higher rates of low-wage employment than smaller households within each household type (not shown). For example, in 1996, single-parent female workers with at least three children were much more likely to hold low-wage jobs than those with fewer children (57 percent, compared to 40 percent). This result may be due to child care problems that make it more difficult for women with many children to find higher-paying jobs or to increase their educational levels. Similarly, low-wage workers are more prevalent in larger than smaller households without children, because adults living in multifamily adult households tend to have low incomes and low educational levels.
  • While the age of the youngest child in the household is not associated with being a low-wage worker for the full sample, some important differences exist by household type. The age of the youngest child is not associated with hourly wages for married workers with children (Table III.4). However, there is a strong association between child's age and wage levels for females in single-parent households. Specifically, in 1996, about 61 percent of single-parent female workers whose youngest child was less than three months old were low-wage workers, compared to only 37 percent for those whose youngest child was a teenager (not shown). Clearly, these findings are confounded with age effects, because as discussed, young workers tend to be in the low-wage labor market and are more likely than older workers to have small children. However, we find similar, although weaker, associations between the age of the youngest child and being a low-wage worker using only those single-parent females who were older than age 30.
  • Overall, the presence of employed adults in the household is not correlated with being a low-wage worker.(16) However, married workers tend to earn more if their spouse is employed than if their spouse is nonemployed. For example, only 14 percent of married males with a working spouse were in the low-wage labor market in 1996, compared to 28 percent of those without a working spouse (Table III.4). These unexpected results are likely due to the higher education levels of workers with employed spouses than workers with nonemployed spouses. For example, in 1996, about 56 percent of workers with an employed spouse completed more than high school, compared to 40 percent of those with a nonworking spouse.
  • Not surprisingly, workers in households that receive public assistance or who live in public or subsidized housing are more than twice as likely as their counterparts to be low-wage workers. These findings hold equally by gender (Table III.4). Similarly, being a low-wage worker is highly correlated with household income for both male and female workers (Figure III.6 and Table III.4). For example, in 1996, about 79 percent of those in households with incomes below the poverty level were low-wage workers, compared to 57 percent for those in households with incomes between 101 to 200 percent of poverty, and only 20 percent for those in households with incomes more than 200 percent of poverty.
  • At the same time, however, because more than 80 percent of all workers had household incomes above 200 percent of poverty, nearly 60 percent of all low-wage workers were in these higher-income households (Table III.5). Thus, low earners are a diverse group in terms of their household incomes. Carnevale and Rose (2001) found a similar result using PSID data: among workers whose annual earnings were less than $15,000, more than half lived in families with total incomes above $25,000.

Figure III.6.
Percentage Of All 1996 Workers Who Were Low-Wage Workers
Within Poverty Groups, By Gender
 
Figure III.6. Percentage Of All 1996 Workers Who Were Low-Wage Workers Within Poverty Groups, By Gender
Source: SIPP March cross-sectional samples.
Note: All figures were calculated using the 1996 calendar year weight.

View full report

Preview
Download

"report.pdf" (pdf, 1.02Mb)

Note: Documents in PDF format require the Adobe Acrobat Reader®. If you experience problems with PDF documents, please download the latest version of the Reader®