Public Cost of Low-Wage Work

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Ken Jacobs, Kuochih Huang, Jenifer MacGillvaryand Enrique Lopezlira

The Public Cost of Low-Wage Jobs in the Illinois Construction Industry

In this research brief we provide estimates of safety net use among families of construction workers in Illinois. We find that 34% of families of construction workers in Illinois are enrolled in one or more safety net programs at a cost to the state and the federal government of over half a billion dollars per year. By comparison, among all Illinois workers, 30% have a family member enrolled in one or more safety net programs. The rate at which construction workers lack health insurance (21%) is more than two and a half times the rate for all workers in Illinois (8%).

Ken Jacobs, Kuochih Huang, Jenifer MacGillvaryand Enrique Lopezlira

The Public Cost of Low-Wage Jobs in the US Construction Industry

In this paper we look at the use by construction workers and their families in the United States of five means-tested safety net programs. We find that 39% of families of construction workers are enrolled in one or more safety net program at a cost of almost $28 billion per year. In comparison, 31% of all workers have a family member enrolled in a safety net program. Three times as many construction workers as all workers lack health insurance (31% compared to 10%).

Ken Jacobs, Kuochih Huang, Jenifer MacGillvaryand Enrique Lopezlira

The Public Cost of Low-Wage Jobs in the Connecticut Construction Industry

In this research brief we provide estimates of safety net use among families of construction workers in Connecticut. We find that 39% of families of construction workers in Connecticut are enrolled in one or more safety net programs at a cost to the state and the federal government of over a quarter of a billion dollars per year. By comparison, among all Connecticut workers, 29% have a family member enrolled in one or more safety net programs. Nearly one-quarter (24%) of construction workers lack health insurance, more than three times the rate for all workers in Connecticut (7%).

Ken Jacobs, Kuochih Huang, Jenifer MacGillvaryand Enrique Lopezlira

The Public Cost of Low-Wage Jobs in the Pennsylvania Construction Industry

In this research brief we provide estimates of safety net use among families of construction workers in Pennsylvania. We find that 28% of families of construction workers in Pennsylvania are enrolled in one or more safety net programs at a cost to the state and the federal government of $428 million per year. Compared to all Pennsylvania workers, construction workers are more than twice as likely to lack health insurance (7% compared to 16%).

Ken Jacobs, Kuochih Huang, Jenifer MacGillvaryand Enrique Lopezlira

The Public Cost of Low-Wage Jobs in the Washington Construction Industry

In this research brief we provide estimates of safety net use among families of construction workers in Washington. We find that 38% of families of construction workers in Washington are enrolled in one or more safety net programs at a cost to the state and the federal government of over half a billion dollars per year. By comparison, among all Washington workers, 32% have a family member enrolled in one or more safety net programs. The rate at which construction workers lack health insurance is close to three times the rate for all workers in Washington (22% compared to 8%).

Ken Jacobs, Kuochih Huang, Jenifer MacGillvaryand Enrique Lopezlira

The Public Cost of Low-Wage Jobs in the Texas Construction Industry

In this research brief we provide estimates of safety net use among families of construction workers in Texas. We find that almost half—46%—of families of construction workers in Texas are enrolled in one or more safety net programs at a cost to the state and the federal government of almost $2 billion per year. By comparison, among all Texas workers, 31% have a family member enrolled in one or more safety net programs. Over half (55%) of construction workers in Texas lack health insurance, two and a half times the rate for all workers (20%).

Ken Jacobsand Kuochih Huang

The Public Cost of Low-Wage Jobs in California’s Construction Industry

Low wages and exploitative practices in the resident construction industry cause profound hardship for workers and their families. It also costs the public. This analysis finds almost half of families of construction workers in California are enrolled in a safety net program at an annual cost of over $3 billion. By comparison, just over a third of all California workers have a family member enrolled in one or more safety net program.

UC Berkeley Labor Center

RELEASE: The Public Cost of Low-Wage Jobs in California’s Construction Industry

The study, by Ken Jacobs and Kuochih Huang of the UC Berkeley Labor Center, finds that almost half of the families of construction workers in California are enrolled in a safety net program at an annual cost of over $3 billion in public funds. By comparison, just over a third of all California workers have a family member enrolled in one or more safety net programs.

UC Berkeley Labor Center

The Public Cost of a Minimum Wage Below $15 in Delaware

This data brief estimates the public cost to Delaware and the federal government from the use of safety net programs among 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 Delaware families (51%) are enrolled in at least one safety net program, at an annual cost of $700 million.

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.