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.
Future of Work & Workers
Labor Center Leadership
Unions & Worker Organizations
Area of Expertise
Labor Standards Policies
Public Policy and Unions
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ken Jacobs, the chair of the UC Berkeley Labor Center, told Insider in March that one of the main attacks from opponents of a minimum wage is that it could help large businesses at the expense of small businesses.
“Creating minimum health and safety standards and a fast-food council provides a way to address these industry-specific issues and improve conditions for the fast-food workforce in an industry that, because of the way it is structured is unlikely to do so outside of government regulation,” Jacobs said.
Though a majority of Americans say they are in favor of unions, creating new ones is not easy. Key to the movement’s future is a sweeping piece of pro-union legislation, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, which passed the House and faces uncertain prospects in the Senate. Ken Jacobs on Forum.
One factor that has been shown to drive up wages in a given area is penetration of unions. “In unionized settings you are more likely to see both higher wages and better benefits,” said Ken Jacobs, who chairs the UC Berkeley Labor Center.
That raises a fundamental question about what kinds of jobs the new, “green” economy will create. As Jacobs said, the only way to get to “good” jobs is to reinforce their creation with policies that encourage fair labor practices, conditions that prevent risk being shouldered by workers, and more.
“The COVID pandemic really laid bare to a large number of workers how little they matter to their employers,” said Ken Jacobs, chair of the Labor Center at the University of California, Berkeley. “Employers may call them essential, but they see how little regard they have for their lives and well-being.
A higher minimum wage can produce benefits not just for workers, but for their employers, their communities and the entire economy.
Ken Jacobs, UC Berkeley Labor Center chair, says confusion is by design. “Many of them thought they were voting to increase gig workers’ pay,” he says. “The $200 million allowed the companies to confuse the issue.”
“Business as usual” when it comes to paid sick leave won’t work in a pandemic. It’s time to extend a clear, strong and unequivocal paid sick safety net to all workers.