Performance Improvement 2005. Characteristics of Low-wage Workers and Their Labor Market Experiences


Given the strong work-focus of TANF and time limits on the receipt of federal TANF assistance, policy makers are interested in understanding the potential for advancement in the labor market among low-wage workers. This project examined the post-PRWORA labor market experiences of low-wage workers by tracking the dynamics of low-wage employment over a four-year period from 1996 to 1999 using the 1996 panel of the Survey of Income and Program Participation. The primary approach for defining low-wage workers was to use the hourly wage at which a full-time worker would have annual earnings below poverty for a family of four. The study found that 28 percent of all workers in March 1996 were low-wageworkers and the share of low-wage workers decreased somewhat through the mid-to late-1990s. Low-wage workers experienced considerable wage growth during the study period, and low-wage workers who began the period with better quality jobs (somewhat higher wages, health benefits available, full-time hours) had more successful employment and earnings outcomes.

PIC ID: 8110; Agency Sponsor: ASPE-OHSP, Office of Human Services Policy; Federal Contact: Hauan, Susan, 202-690-8698; Performer: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc., Washington, DC

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