Fellow Raise Illinois coalition members Women Employed and Action Now Institute recently released a report by Marc Doussard called, “Chicago’s Growing Low-Wage Workforce: A Profile of Falling Labor Market Fortunes”.
The report dispels the common myth that all low-wage workers (those making $12 an hour or less) are teenagers that just need disposable income. In fact, 94% of low-wage workers in 2011 were over 20 years old and 57.4 % were over the age of 30.
Other findings from the report:
- 31.2 percent of payroll employees ages 18-64 worked in low-wage jobs (paying $12 or less per hour) in 2011. This represents a substantial increase from the 23.8 percent of workers employed in low-wage jobs in 2001.
- In 2001, fewer than 10 percent of low-wage job holders had a college degree. Today, more than 16 percent, or approximately 1 in 6, hold college degrees.
- Increasingly, low-wage jobs play a crucial role in supporting households, rather than augmenting core income. More than half of the Chicago area’s low-wage workers (56.7 percent) live in households that get all of their income from low-wage jobs. This represents a substantial increase from the 45.7 percent of households fully reliant on low-wage jobs in 2001.
- $12 per hour represents a modest and conservative measure of low-wage work. At this wage level, a full-time worker living by herself will barely be able to cover life’s basic costs without public assistance. When a worker earning $12 per hour is supporting family or other household members, public assistance programs will likely be indispensable to household subsistence.
Press coverage of the report:
Chicago Sun-Times, “Low-wage work force grows 30% as the number of jobs shrinks”
WBEZ Chicago Public Radio, “New study: Low-wage workers in Chicago are older, more educated”
Chicago Sun-Times, “Too often, hard work goes unrewarded”