For low-income youth who lack basic skills and drop out of school, finding employment at a living wage is a challenge. Developed by MDRC as a nonresidential alternative to Job Corps, JOBSTART was an unusual collaborative effort to help disadvantaged young people join the economic mainstream.
It is widely recognized that having no job or a job that pays a low wage puts people at risk of living in poverty. Less well known, though also well documented, are the dangers that low-wage work and unemployment pose to health by exposing people to physical hazards and psychological stressors that satisfactory employment could prevent.
The wages and earnings of low-income workers have been stagnant or declining in real terms for approximately 35 years. Nationwide, the labor market-driven growth of the low-wage workforce has become a major issue for both the business community and the public.
In the mid-1980s, three developments long in the making — a dramatic increase in out-of-wedlock childbearing, the high cost of providing welfare to young poor women who become mothers, and the difficulties faced by their children — became a focus of concern among policymakers and the public alike.