Program Areas

Future of Work & Workers

Health Care

Labor Center Leadership

Low-Wage Work

Unions & Worker Organizations

Area of Expertise

Labor Standards Policies
Health Care
Public Policy and Unions

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About Ken

Ken Jacobs is the chair of the Labor Center, where he has been a labor specialist since 2002. His areas of specialization include low-wage work, labor standards policies, and health care coverage. He has recently worked on economic impact studies of proposed minimum wage laws for the cities of Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Jose, and conducted analyses of the public cost of low-wage work. Jacobs is the co-editor, with Michael Reich and Miranda Dietz, of When Mandates Work: Raising Labor Standards at the Local Level (University of California Press), an edited volume on the impacts of labor standards policies in San Francisco. Jacobs leads a multi-campus program providing research and technical assistance to consumer stakeholders and policy makers on the effects of the Affordable Care Act and measures to cover the remaining uninsured in California. Along with colleagues at UC Berkeley and UCLA, he is consulting for Covered California on issues related to ACA implementation. His work has been covered in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and National Public Radio.

    Anna Godøyand Ken Jacobs

    The downstream benefits of higher incomes and wages

    This article, published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, discusses research that used natural experiments to measure downstream effects that are clearly caused by changes in family income. There is strong evidence of a causal effect of higher net income on child development, including math and reading test scores, educational attainment, birth weight, mental health, and health in adulthood.

    Ken Jacobs, Danielle Mahones, Annette Bernhardtand Brenda Muñoz

    The Labor Center condemns anti-Asian racism and violence

    The Labor Center understands that workers are whole human beings whose lives go beyond their workplace and whose work lives are deeply affected by what happens in their communities. When Black people suffer racist attacks in their communities—whether the attacks come in the form of police and extrajudicial violence, or underfunded public education, or exposure to environmental degradation, or mass incarceration—these are workers’ rights issues.

    Kuochih Huang, Ken Jacobs, Tia Koonse, Ian Eve Perry, Kevin Riley, Laura Stockand Saba Waheed

    The Fast-Food Industry and COVID-19 in Los Angeles

    Over the last decade, fast-food restaurants have proliferated in the United States, with the largest increase in Los Angeles County. Fast food is an integral part of the food sector in Los Angeles, comprising nearly 150,000 restaurant workers. This report investigates working conditions in fast food prior to the pandemic, profiles the industry’s demographics and cost to the public, and examines the impact of COVID-19 on the sector.

    Ken Jacobs, Ian Eve Perryand Jenifer MacGillvary

    The Public Cost of a Low Federal Minimum Wage

    The Raise the Wage Act, passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in 2019, proposes a national $15 minimum wage to be fully implemented in 2025. This paper looks at the cost of five public safety net programs for families of workers who would receive a direct wage increase under this bill. We find that close to half of these families (47%) are enrolled in at least one program, at an annual cost of $107 billion.

    Ken Jacobs, Ian Eve Perryand Jenifer MacGillvary

    The Public Cost of a Low Minimum Wage in Georgia

    This data brief estimates the public cost to Georgia and the federal government from the use of safety net programs by low-wage working families who would be directly affected by an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025. We find that just over half of these Georgia families (51%) are enrolled in at least one safety net program, at an annual cost of $4.7 billion.