Population: Low-Income Populations

Low-Wage Workers

The income of low-wage workers is often not enough to lift them and their families out of poverty. MDRC is designing and testing initiatives to improve the financial well-being of low-wage workers and help them remain steadily employed and move into better jobs.

The Latest
Report

Amid a budget crunch, the Santa Clara Housing Authority reduced its subsidies to low-income renters in 2013. This retrospective study shows that the decrease did not affect average employment and earnings over the next four years, as some economic theories might have predicted.

Issue Focus

The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the nation’s awareness of the critical role that low-wage workers — cashiers, nursing assistants, delivery people — play in our lives. MDRC’s Cynthia Miller summarizes research about how expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit can effectively supplement their earnings and lead to other positive benefits for them and their families.

Key Documents
Report

Lessons from the Employment Retention and Advancement (ERA) Project

Many recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and other low-income individuals find or keep jobs for a while, but far fewer remain steadily employed and advance in the labor market. This report describes results and draws lessons from rigorous evaluations of 12 programs seeking to improve employment retention and advancement among low-wage workers.

Report

Implementation and Final Impacts of the Work Advancement and Support Center (WASC) Demonstration

WASC sought to increase the incomes of low-wage workers by stabilizing employment, improving skills, increasing earnings, and easing access to work supports. The program increased workers’ receipt of work supports. In the two sites that eased access to funds for training, WASC increased the receipt of certificates and licenses and increased earnings in the third year.

Report

Two-Year Impacts from the WorkAdvance Demonstration

WorkAdvance provides demand-driven skills training and a focus on jobs with career pathways. As detailed in this full report, all four programs studied greatly increased training completion and credential acquisition. Employment outcomes varied by site, with large, consistent impacts at the most experienced provider and promising results at two others.