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


SIPP contains some information on job and business characteristics, including usual hours per week worked, hourly wages, monthly earnings, occupation, industry, job tenure, whether health insurance is available on the job, and union membership status. We followed a similar approach for tabulating these characteristics as for tabulating workers' demographic characteristics. Our tables present distributions of job and business characteristics for low-wage workers, and all workers.(17) Unlike the previous section, however, we do not present the reverse figures (that is, the share of low-wage workers among those with a particular job characteristic), because these figures have less policy relevance. We present figures separately for males and females and present selected statistics by age. In addition, we present selected figures for the six (three male and three female) low-wage worker typologies discussed above.

We find that many low-wage workers receive hourly wages substantially below the low-wage cutoff value used in our study. In addition, low-wage workers hold jobs that are markedly less stable and provide fewer benefits than the jobs higher-wage workers hold. Interestingly, however, most report that they usually work at least 35 hours per week (that is, full-time). Low-wage workers are represented in all occupations and industries, but they are disproportionately found in retail trade industries, service occupations, and nonunion jobs. In combination, our results are similar to those found in Acs et al. (2001), Bernstein and Hartmann (1999), Carnevale and Rose (2001), Mishel et al. (2001), and Mitnik et al. (2002).

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