A Focus on Student Impacts During Stalking Awareness Month

January marks a time to acknowledge and renew the fight to reduce the dangerous realities of stalking. With the spring 2015 semester underway, college students between the ages of 18 and 24 in particular are at a heightened risk of being stalked. In just one six to nine month period, 13% of college women were stalked. Although many young people make light of stalking, such as by saying that they “Facebook stalked” someone, stalking is a serious crime that can psychologically and emotionally damage a victim and reduce their sense of safety. According to the Stalking Resource Center, 46% of stalking victims fear not knowing what will happen next; while 29% of stalking victims fear the stalking will never stop. It can also turn physically violent—89% of femicide victims who had been physically assaulted had also been stalked in the 12 months before their murder. In addition, most stalking victims know their stalker. On college campuses, 80% of victims knew their stalker, many of which were current or former intimate partners.

As technology has evolved, so has stalking: 78% of stalkers use more than one method to track their victims. Means of approach can include but are not limited to mobile phones (text messages and phone calls), computers (instant messaging, emails and monitoring internet histories), social media accounts such as Twitter and Facebook, GPS, as well as modes of public transportation and physically following the victim. Advanced technology makes it more convenient for perpetrators to track or contact their victims more often. In fact, two thirds of stalkers pursue their victims at least once per week, many daily. Criminal justice and direct service professionals can learn more about the use of technology to stalk through the Stalking Resource Center’s online course.

Stalking can also have an economic impact on victims, whether they are in school or the workforce. Stalking can cause students to miss classes or even drop out of school to avoid the stalker. One in eight employed stalking victims will lose time from work as a direct result of their victimization, more than half of which lose five days of work or more. Missing days of work as well as the increased loss of productivity at work could lead to lost employment opportunities such as promotions or obtaining a better job and even termination. In addition to education or employment disruption, stalking can pose other economic hardships on victims. Significant property damage and costs associated with safety, such as alarm systems, changing residences, legal fees, as well as health and mental treatment are just some of the costs paid by victims.

To learn more about the economic impact of stalking on college students and potential legal remedies, see our latest ESS Project newsletter. For additional information on stalking and materials related to National Stalking Awareness Month, visit http://www.stalkingawarenessmonth.org/.


Middle-Class Economics: Pathway to Economic Security?

Economic security was a strong and welcome theme in President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union (SOTU) address. He started by introducing a newly coined phrase, “middle-class economics,” and then defined it as “the idea that this country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” This economics would provide opportunities to all—including the sometimes forgotten midlife and older workers who need to recalibrate, upgrade or obtain new skills so that they can earn higher wages, help their families make ends meet, and save for retirement down the road.

To accomplish these goals and obtain the appropriate skills, some workers will need to attend college. As the President stated, “Forty percent of our college students choose community college. Some are young and starting out. Some are older and looking for a better job. Some are veterans and single parents trying to transition back into the job market. Whoever you are, this plan is your chance to graduate ready for the new economy, without a load of debt.”

This is a vision worth pursuing. If implemented, the President’s plan would offer midlife and older workers access to resources that have often been out of reach. It would allow them to 1) attend college; 2) obtain higher-paying jobs; 3) take care of themselves and their families and 4) participate in a retirement savings plan. With respect to retirement, the savings proposals promoted in this year’s SOTU and related materials build on the “myRA” initiative the President introduced in last year’s SOTU address–a simple, easy, low-cost way for workers who do not have access to retirement savings plans through their employer to save for retirement. The myRA plan was quietly launched online by the Department of the Treasury in December 2014, and promises to be of significant benefit to many working families. It deserves broader attention and promotion than it has gotten to date.

Together with myRA, the Administration’s recommendations for access to enhanced education opportunities and a range of retirement savings vehicles could improve economic security for all. Ultimately, they could help prop up what for far too many is a broken “three-legged stool”—Social Security, pensions (which are rapidly vanishing) and savings—supporting a secure retirement. An economically secure worker translates into less pressure on families, on public support programs (pre- and post-retirement) and on federal, state and local budgets. Such an outcome would certainly enable a major part of our workforce to “feel more secure in a world of constant change.”

Please join WOW and the Elder Economic Security Initiative team in its quest to improve economic security for midlife and older workers and seniors. You may visit us at http://www.wowonline.org/elder-economic-security-initiative/.


Job Loss Common for Survivors

The Economic Security for Survivors Project team kicked off 2015 with a training and technical assistance meeting in Forsyth, Georgia in partnership with the Georgia Criminal Justice Coordinating Council. Sarah Gonzalez Bocinski and Robin Thompson met with a group of law enforcement officers and advocates to discuss the economic impact intimate partner and sexual violence has on the ability of survivors to be safe, seek justice and recover. From a lack of adequate financial resources, to job loss, to crushing debt, participants shared examples in which they had seen these many economic barriers complicate a survivor’s ability to move forward.

One particular issue that was continually raised during the meeting was the impact abuse had on the ability of survivors to maintain or seek employment. Advocates and victims alike shared stories about job loss due to an abuser’s tactics and resulting trauma. They expressed frustration at how little recourse there is to address the loss of the very lifeline that could enable survivors to leave an abuse relationship. Georgia, like many states, offers few workplace protections and accommodations for victims of intimate partner violence, sexual assault or stalking. The ability to take time off to deal with abuse or violence without the threat of job loss or employer retaliation, accommodations that allow survivors to be safer at work, and access to Unemployment Insurance when survivors do lose their job are integral to their ability to be economically secure and free of violence.

A study in Maine found that 60% of survivors either quit or lost their jobs as a result of abuse. Reasons for termination included diminish productivity, emotional trauma, the need to seek safety, concerns for children or coworkers, and abuser interference at work. The study included the story of a survivor whose abuser –also a co-worker– broke her bone then went to work early to tell “his side of the story” to the employer before she arrived at work later because she needed medical care. She was fired on the spot. Unfortunately this story is not uncommon and the impact on survivor safety and their ability to achieve independence is devastating. Protections against employer discrimination and workplace policies that guarantee a survivor’s rights to address abuse without repercussions are necessary to make sure that survivors like the woman in Maine and those we encountered in Georgia can stay employed. This will give them a greater chance of having the financial resources and stability to escape and rebuild their lives.


Elder Index Legislation Passes Overwhelmingly in NJ Assembly

WOO-HOO! Today, the New Jersey Assembly passed, by a vote of 72-1, A3504, a bill requiring the Department of Human Services to produce and update the New Jersey Elder Index; consult the Index in planning and delivering public benefits and services to senior residents; and use it as a planning tool for public resource allocation. Passage of the bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Joseph Lagana and Assemblywomen Pamela Lampitt, Valerie Huttle and Shavonda Sumter, represents a crucial step forward toward sound public policy for seniors in NJ, as the Elder Index provides policy makers accurate data on the economic conditions of older adults. WOW and its partner, NJ Foundation for Aging, testified in support of the legislation last month before the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee.

Next step: consideration of companion legislation in the NJ Senate (S2231) introduced by Loretta Weinberg, Majority Leader. The bill is currently in the Senate Health Committee, where it may come up for a vote as early as winter 2015. WOW and NJFA will be pressing for favorable consideration and rapid movement to the Senate floor. Say Yes to Elder Economic Security!


Women Veterans Are Still Fighting For Economic Security

We celebrate Veteran’s Day by honoring the sacrifices the men and women of our military have made.  Yet it is equally important to honor their service by ensuring that they have routes to economic security when they return from their service.  However, this latter celebration is still not a reality for all veterans.

Recently released US Bureau of Labor Statistics data highlights some significant challenges that women veterans face upon their return.  While the good news is that the overall unemployment rate fell for male and female veterans over the past year, the bad news is that the unemployment rate for Gulf-War era II veterans remained strikingly high. And even more troubling is that within that group the unemployment rate for women is almost double that of male veterans (6.2 percent for men and 11.2 percent for women).

Source: US BLS, 2014

Source: US BLS, 2014

This data is quite alarming.  Younger female veterans are returning from their service only to find themselves without jobs and far from economic security.  This is unacceptable. We need to invest in employment and training programs, along with supportive services, that provide routes for female veterans to transition to career pathways.  One such route is access to nontraditional occupations (NTO)—such as those in the sciences, building trades, and technology. Women continue to be underrepresented in these fields, and these are industries that offer economic opportunities. Women veterans are particularly poised to succeed in these training programs and jobs.  Many of the technical expertises they mastered while in military service could transfer to work in NTO.  In addition, women veterans have also gained important skills navigating a traditionally male workplace, and prepare them for NTO.

So yes, we should celebrate our veterans’ accomplishments today, but tomorrow we need to fight for their economic security on the home front. The new unemployment data—with its clear gender disparities—must be a call to action for all of us to work to ensure that on Veterans Day in 2015 we will have lowered veteran’s unemployment rates and closed the significant gender unemployment rate gap.  The best celebration will be that of true economic security for the women who have sacrificed so much.


Photo Credit: Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs

Photo Credit: Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs


Struggling to Get By: Economic Insecurity and LGBT Seniors in Massachusetts

Massachusetts’ seniors face some of the highest living costs in the nation, and do so with incomes that have not kept pace with increases in the costs of basic needs such as housing, health care and food.  These economic challenges are experienced across demographic groups.  In collaboration with the Massachusetts Association of Older Americans (MAOA), our Elder Economic Security state partner, we conducted a series of focus groups with a group of seniors whose experiences are often marginalized—LGBT seniors.   Our new report, Struggling to Get By: Economic Insecurity and LGBT Seniors in Massachusetts, presents a snapshot of lived experiences of this group of seniors “struggling to get by” in the current economic climate, illuminating individuals’ challenges and the ways they make ends meet. In addition we explore perceptions, knowledge and experiences of the potential economic benefits to LGBT couples as a result of Windsor v United States. The end of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) made previously denied economic protections and responsibilities–including Social Security survivor benefits, family and medical leave, and the ability to pool resources as a family without unfair taxation–available to married same-sex couples.  Finally we conclude with both research and policy recommendations aimed at improving the economic security of LGBT seniors in the state.

Among our findings we found both commonalities and differences between LGBT seniors and other seniors; along with differences within the LGBT senior demographic.  Not surprisingly, economic insecurity exists within the LGBT community; and some of the challenge is not unique to LGBT subpopulation. In our focus groups, LGBT participants identified housing, health care and food costs, along with having inadequate savings, as key barriers to economic security in Massachusetts.  These economic concerns cross many demographic groups in the state.

However participants did express some concerns specific to the LGBT community that exacerbated their economic insecurity, and also raised concerns about aging. Specifically they reported that discrimination against LGBT individuals during their working years (particularly access to promotions) impacted the amount of retirement savings they could accumulate and the Social Security payments they later received. In addition, the prevalent stereotype that members of the LGBT community, and particularly gay men, are rich, impacts their ability to communicate their economic insecurity. They also reported that in regard to the overturning of DOMA, many participants expressed uncertainty about newly available public benefits and how to access them. Other significant concerns were raised about the dignity in the aging process as an LGBT senior.  Participants raised concerns about having to go “back in the closet” if they need to be placed into a nursing home because of perceived homophobia among staff.  Finally, participants also reported they were not as likely to have children (although they did feel future LGBT generations will be more likely to have children); so there is concern about who is going to care for them as they age.

There is much work that needs to be done in order to ensure that LGBT seniors can age in place with economic security and dignity in Massachusetts and throughout the country.  While our research is intended to provide a snapshot of the experiences of LGBT seniors dealing with economic security and insecurity as they age in Massachusetts, we highlighted several issues that demand more in-depth research and other issues that require policy and programmatic change, particularly concerning public benefits and dignity in health care facilities.

You can access the full report on our website:  Struggling to Get By: Economic Insecurity and LGBT Seniors in Massachusetts


Elder Economic Security Initiative (EESI) on the Move

WOW’s EESI has been on the road lately. In September, Initiative Director Jo Reed was in Boston to speak at the Annual Awards Brunch of its partner, Massachusetts Association of Older Americans. MAOA  Executive Director Chet Jakubiak had gathered top state leaders in aging research, advocacy and service to recognize two outstanding contributors to the field:  Ellen Bruce, retiring Director of the Gerontology Institute at University of Massachusetts Boston–and collaborator with WOW in creating Elder Economic Security StandardTM Index (Elder Index)–and Al Norman, Executive Director of Mass. Home Care, a well-known and effective advocate on behalf of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable elders. Jo’s remarks focused on the Elder Index as a potent advocacy tool that had been used across the country to promote policy and programs supporting older adults.  She praised MAOA and Mr. Jakubiak for their dedicated efforts, including a successful legislative initiative to establish a MA Elder Economic Security Commission. The Commission has a year to come up with recommendations. 

October brought a visit to Trenton, NJ, when a bill introduced in July 2014 by NJ Assemblyman Joseph A. Lagana came up for consideration before the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee. The bill, A3504 (companion legislation to S2231, introduced by Senator Loretta Weinberg), requires the Department of Human Services to produce and update the New Jersey Elder Index; consult the Index in planning and delivering public benefits and services to senior residents; and utilize it as a planning tool for public resource allocation. WOW Vice President for Policy and Programs Shawn McMahon, along with Melissa Chalker, Program Manager at New Jersey Foundation for Aging—EESI’s partner in the state—both testified regarding the significant benefits enactment of the bill would bring to NJ seniors. While funding originally included in the bill was amended out before the vote, the committee voted unanimously to move A3504 forward.  Assembly floor action is expected before the end of the year, and the Senate should take up the Weinberg bill early in 2015.  WOW and NJFA will work for enactment next year of a version of the bill that provides resources for producing and updating the NJ Elder Index. 

In mid-October, WOW Senior Scholar Mary Gatta and EESI intern Carla Iannone participated in a meeting of the newly-formed Bergen County, NJ, Anti-Hunger Coalition. They introduced WOW’s Elder Initiative, talked about WOW’s new research project on senior food insecurity in Bergen and Passaic Counties, and discussed the online service provider survey that will soon be conducted to clarify provider concerns. The group helped draft questions that will be refined and included in the survey, which should be in the field by November 1.  

EESI travelled to the University of Maryland School of Social Work in Baltimore on October 30th to meet with students in Professor Christine Callahan’s course on Financial Stability for Individuals, Families and Communities.  Students were particularly interested in learning about the impact of race, culture and gender on financial issues faced by seniors.  


Building our OWNE Path to Success

The National Center for Women’s Employment Equity (NCWEE) has had an exciting month. As a newly launched entity at WOW, NCWEE is expanding our work with our Opportunities for Women in Nontraditional Employment (OWNE) Initiative and intense technical assistance with 21 job training sites across the country, engaging national and state level policy makers on issues around women in nontraditional jobs, and working to bring together experts in the fields of recruiting and retaining women in high-skill, high-wage jobs and ending occupational segregation.

On Wednesday, September 17th, NCWEE Director Lauren Sugerman participated in a round table discussion hosted by the Transportation Learning Center (TLC). Lauren was featured on a panel discussing equity provisions for job training and apprenticeship programs in the public transit sector. Lauren contributed her technical assistance expertise in adding a gender lens to the full range of program activities, from recruitment to retention, with an emphasis on the importance of ensuring gender inclusivity and targeting in mentorship programs. WOW looks forward to partnering more with TLC in the near future.

On Friday, September 19th, WOW and National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity convened our sister organizations in a conversation with the Women’s Bureau’s Director, Latifa Lyles. The event featured representatives from DOL’s Office of Civil Rights, Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs, Employment and Training Administration, Office of Apprenticeship, and the Secretary’s office. The dialogue focused on the importance of nontraditional jobs and a focus on women being incorporated into DOL’s drafting of regulations for the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, WIOA, signed in to law earlier this summer.  WOW shared our vision for establishing a DOL commission that would guide and oversee WIOA in relation to redressing occupational segregation in the job training system and encouraged the DOL to set aside resources for providing technical assistance on gender equity. The next week brought NCWEE’s Director, Lauren Sugerman, back to Washington, D.C. from her home in Chicago to present on a panel for the National Dialogue on Career Pathways hosted by three federal agencies, DOL, DOE and HHS. Lauren discussed how road signs along the career pathway system can often discourage women from entering high-wage, high-skilled blue-collar occupations. Her comments are captured in her blog on WOW’s website!

While Lauren presented in DC, NCWEE’s Manager, Katie Onachila, kicked off a fantastic site visit to our partner in our Opportunities for Women in Nontraditional Employment (OWNE) Initiative, Goodwill of North Georgia (GNG). The OWNE initiative is helping GNG ramp up programming to get women into highway construction, building maintenance and transportation warehouse and logistics jobs. Almost 50 women are enrolled and 30 of those women have been hired into nontraditional jobs. One woman called during our training session to report that she had just been hired by a local apartment maintenance company at a starting rate of $14 an hour. We toured their facilities, met their committed and expert staff and some enthusiastic clients, and conducted an interactive training for a lively and engaged group of partners from the workforce system and community agencies on recruiting and assessing women in nontraditional jobs and training programs. WOW facilitated an animated roundtable with a group of employers to explore policy and practices that create opportunities for women to enter and succeed in traditionally male-dominated fields.

We also visited our OWNE partners in Vermont at Vermont works for Women. Lauren participated in strategic planning and an employer roundtable with the organization’s top employer partners in the state. The roundtable covered strategic approaches to hiring, retaining and advancing women, best practices for gender inclusion and sensitivity in employer policies and practices and building cultural and gender competency among existing and new employees. Lauren was also able to participate in Vermont Works for Women’s Women Can Do Conference. This conference brings together over 400 high school girls from around the state to expose them to and engage them around nontraditional careers for women.

Operations Industrialized Centers of America (OICA) is also an OWNE partner, and WOW Senior Scholar Mary Gatta and NCWEE Program Manager Katie Onachila convened a training with four OICA affiliates with whom we’re partnering in our Initiative. The sites included OIC of South Florida, OIC of Asheville, Tri-County OIC, and OIC of Rhode Island. Participants from each of these programs came together at OICA in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania over three days to engaged in detailed strategic planning and resource development to help expand OIC’s already sophisticated job training practices to more deeply incorporate a gender lens.

NCWEE was also featured on a Women’s Bureau webinar on women in construction. Director Lauren Sugerman addressed the over 1,000 attendees along with representatives from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, National Women’s Law Center, and Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc. The panelists described barriers women face to entry into skilled trades construction jobs and strategies to increase women’s access to and success in these fields. WOW shared practical suggestions for women’s recruitment, preparatory training, placement and retention from our Pink-to-Green toolkit. We also described how customized technical assistance for the workforce development system, community based organizations and industry partners can help to change the policy and practices that contribute to patterns of occupational segregation that still persist construction industry.

In addition to our current work, NCWEE is also thrilled to be partnering with the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO on a project with the Clinton Global Initiative. The project will create opportunity hubs for employment in the construction industry. Focusing on preparing 125 young adults in DC, Northern VA, and MD, the project builds on the Clinton Global Initiative and the Building Trades and Construction Department’s commitment to expand opportunities in apprenticeship–specifically opportunities for women.


Building Capacity: The Economic Security for Survivors (ESS) Project in Action

This fall was full of product releases, travel and trainings, as well as some exciting news. On September 13th the ESS Project received a three-year technical assistance grant from the US Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women to continue to provide training and technical assistance to OVW grantees serving survivors of intimate partner violence, sexual assault and stalking around the issues of safety, economic security and sustainability of employment. We are thrilled by OVW’s commitment to addressing survivor economic security and are eager to build on the work we have already done across the country.

ESS recently introduced its two new tools for advocates, the Victim Advocate’s Guide to Safety and Economic Security for Victims of Violence Against Women and the Economic and Employment Advocacy E-Course. The Victim Advocate’s Guide offers practical recommendations that all advocates can use to reduce economic barriers to safety and justice, restore independence and foster collaboration across systems. Informed by WOW’s expertise in strengthening workforce development for women, the new e-course provides community-based advocates and case managers with a blueprint to help survivors rebuild their lives through career and economic counseling designed to empower survivors with options. The course also contains a number of handouts and worksheets that can easily be used in client services. Both these tools served as the foundation for trainings held with key stakeholders throughout the fall.

In September, Sarah and Malore met with the grantees of the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services and the Longmont Ending (Domestic) Violence Initiative in Colorado to explore the intersections of intimate partner and sexual violence and economic security to provide a new framework to better respond to survivors. Using this economic lens, they explored the various tools that the criminal justice system and community service providers already have to address the economic insecurity many survivors face as a result of economic abuse and the cost of violence, such as securing economic relief through protection orders or providing employment support services.

On September 19th, Sarah joined other advocates and leaders at the White House where President Obama and Vice President Biden announced their newest efforts to combat sexual assault on campus. The “It’s On Us” campaign seeks to prevent sexual violence on campuses by engaging bystanders and making the case that every member of the community has a role to play in creating safer campuses where intellectual growth is accessible to every student.

At the end of September Malore and project consultant Robin Thompson participated in the Nebraska State Patrol’s annual conference where they led two workshops detailing how law enforcement can work independently and in collaboration with other justice and community sectors to address the economic dynamics of abuse and pursue economic justice. They shared best practices to integrating economic considerations into the existing activities of dispatchers, first responders and investigators with a goal of increasing survivor safety and offender accountability.


Building on previous work in Oregon, Sarah and Malore returned to Portland in October to meet with direct service program directors at the Crime Victim Services Division’s Directors’ Day meeting. They were joined by the Jackson County Sexual Assault Response Team and the Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Taskforce who shared ways their work has changed to address economic security since the team’s last visit in early 2013. The Oregon Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence also shared the work of its member organizations towards promoting economic independence. Both the Victim Advocates Guide and the new curriculum were then introduced and shared as free tools to support advocates and case managers’ capacity to support the criminal justice systems and enhance economic support services. The meeting also served as a launching point for ongoing technical assistance to incorporate economic security into the criminal justice system response and community support services across the state over the next three years.

Interested in learning more about ESS project trainings and resources? Contact Sarah Gonzalez Bocinski, Director, Economic Security for Survivors Project at sbocinski@wowonline.org.



All I Want is A Job – Our Labor Market and the Search for Economic Security

Welcome to the re-employment seminar; you are all required to be in this seminar because the unemployment office thinks you will have a really hard time finding a job in this economy.”

Imagine hearing those words right after you were laid off in one of the US’s deepest recessions.  Well that is exactly what WOW’s Senior Scholar, Mary Gatta, heard when she went undercover as an unemployed worker in an American Jobs Center (formerly known as One Stop Centers) at the height of the recent recession. Mary chronicles her experiences as an undercover waitress and adjunct professor in her new book, All I Want is A Job: Unemployed Women Navigating the Public Workforce System, released this summer by Stanford University Press.

In the past week Mary has been on the road listening to job seekers and workforce professional’s in the field, and sharing the findings of her book. She spoke to Rutgers University sociology faculty and students; along with jobseekers at the Jersey Shore at a Jobs Help Center at the Middletown Township Public Library. She then headed up the New Jersey Turnpike to the New Jersey Institute of Technology to speak at an UpskillNJ career fair—a program that offers specialized information technology and science training to unemployed professionals and veterans in New Jersey to help them upgrade their skills to compete jobs. And then continued on 95 North to Jobs for the Future to meet with workforce officials, career services professionals, and researchers. Both audiences —job seekers and workforce development professionals—while at different points in their work lives–expressed concern for their futures. As the job market may be improving, there is a general anxiety not only that there are just not enough jobs, but that the jobs that are available do not offer pathways to economic security.

And the worries that workers expressed to Mary at her New Jersey talks this week, are backed up by the data. Although we are officially no longer in a recession, many American workers and their families are struggling to secure employment, and especially jobs that offer opportunities for economic security.  Paul Krugman’s recent New York Times piece paints a stark picture for workers today, who continue to find themselves out of work.There are still almost 3 million Americans who have been out of work for more than six months, which is the usual maximum duration of unemployment insurance. This is a number that is three times the pre-recession total. And coupled with long-term unemployment is that the extended benefits have been eliminated — and in some states the length of benefits has been cut even further. And in this economic recovery, men continue to outpace women in job gains—with the unemployment rate falling half as quickly for women as for men.

And as Mary stresses in her book–  our labor market is changing.  In fact, the backstory has been that the employment gains during the recovery have been highest in low-wage occupations. Jobs such as retail sales, food preparation, waiters and waitresses, and personal and home care aides grew 2.7 times as fast as mid-wage and higher-wage occupations. Overall, employment has grown by 8.7 percent in low-wage occupations compared with only 6.6 percent in high-wage occupations, and mid-wage occupations have actually fallen by 7.3 percent. This uneven jobs recovery means that the “good job” deficit is greater than it was during the early 2000s.

Further, the proliferation of low-wage work is compounded by decades of wage stagnation. Over thirty years, the median wage for households has remained nearly the same. Indeed, the past decade actually saw a decrease in the inflation-adjusted average income for households as available wages and compensation for most workers remains far below what would be expected given productivity gains and what families require to keep up with increases in the cost of health care, housing, and education.

So if the jobs that are projected to grow are low quality jobs, there needs to be a concerted effort to improve these jobs. Workforce development policy is certainly an important and critical part of this response, but for it to be an effective policy it cannot exist on its own. For this to occur, there needs to be collaboration between both private sector changes and public sector supports. For example, we need to highlight high-road management practices—practices that engage front-line workers in problem-solving and decision-making and provide them with the training and skills to do this well—to improve the quality of service jobs and the quality of services provided. And workers need benefits and supports as they to move toward economic security. The absence of comprehensive social insurance or governmental protections results in a vastly unequal labor market, in which workers who fill low-wage jobs face many compounding issues. Millions of Americans who work full-time cannot pay their basic living expenses, let alone have enough money to make investments in their future. These harsh realities demonstrate the need for reinforcing and expanding the safety net for working families facing hard times and supporting programs and policies that contribute to moving families to economic security.


WOW's Senior Scholar Mary Gatta speaking to an audience of students and job seekers.  Photo: The Daily Targum, Rutgers University

WOW’s Senior Scholar Mary Gatta speaking to an audience of students and job seekers. Photo: The Daily Targum, Rutgers University