New Census data show that low-income people are responding as they always do to tight labor markets…by working!

September 12th, 2018 at 2:35 pm

One of the particularly frustrating, fact-free aspects of the conservative push to add (or ramp up) work requirements in anti-poverty programs like Medicaid or SNAP is that low-income people who can do so are already working hard. Moreover, as the job market tightens, they respond to tightening conditions.

Using the new Census data, Kathleen Bryant and I, with help from Raheem Chaudhry, used the 2017 microdata (the data on which the poverty and income numbers are based) to compare the employment rates of low-income single mothers (with incomes below twice the poverty threshold) with prime-age (25-54), non-poor adults. We found that between 2010 and 2017, the employment rates of the low-income single moms increased by 5.4 percentage points (67.7% to 73.2%), while those of non-poor adults increased by just 1.2 percentage points (87.8% to 89%).

Source: CBPP analysis.

It’s true that the single moms, by dint of their lower employment rate levels, have more room to grow, but the prime-age adults are not obviously hitting a ceiling on their rates.

At any rate, we believe this shows that a large and growing majority of low-income moms are already trying to both raise their kids and support their families through work, and that they’re actively taking advantage of the tight labor market. Adding work requirements will just give them one more needless, bureaucratic barrier to leap over, likely reducing their ability to maintain their benefits, even as they’re playing by the rules. Forgive me if I cynically suspect that such hassle-induced benefit losses are the point.


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2 comments in reply to "New Census data show that low-income people are responding as they always do to tight labor markets…by working!"

  1. Kevin Rica says:

    Don’t just blame conservatives. Progressives (as opposed to old-fashioned liberals) are just as much to blame for claiming that we need immigrants to do jobs “that Americans don’t want.”

    According to progressives, there are plenty of jobs that need doing, but black people are too lazy. Implicitly, they argue, if American weren’t so racist we would let more Central Americans in to do the jobs that pay less than welfare queens can get by gaming the system.

    As an old-fashioned liberal, conservatives can’t betray me. It takes a “progressive,” masquarading as a “Democrat” to do that.

    • Bob Anderson says:

      Who cares about immigrants though? A lot of what you spout has been true since 1800’s. “White” Americans don’t want to do many of the jobs immigrants will do…………in 1885 this was going on. Why do you think there are so many squatters bud? America is the land of technological progress. People want to work with tech. Not pick berries or do housework……..for a living.

      Nor do I understand why Jared made this post. I mean, Jared, when debt expansion goes, employment will rise. There is no “response” other than that. This is not a investment planned economy. The economy is in trouble Jared. Nonbank financial companies that have powered the borrowing boom are running out of gas. We are seeing this in the auto sector right now as profits have tumbled causing incentives to be withdrawn, lowering future sales. The YrY declines coming by years end will effect employment as YrY declines continue into next year. Goods jobs which Trump cheerleaders are pumping up, will be negative by next spring, YrY. Auto will be struggling. The Quicken Loans bubble is popping much like the mid-00’s banking bubble popped. I doubt this is as Systematic, but you never know and as Bernanke said, much away from the Federal Reserve Systems influence. Debt expansion ends Jared, you need to respect the system.