Peter Edelman provides some insight into what he calls the United States’ low-wage work pandemic.
Is it any wonder that many Americans are getting so defensive about holding on to what scraps they have? This is a result of growing inequality.
Low-wage work is a pandemic. A third of our population ekes by on less than $36,000 for a family of three. That’s 103 million people living on less than twice the poverty line, but most of them technically aren’t poor or don’t consider themselves poor. Yet they struggle every month to make ends meet and are one medical emergency or protracted illness away from bankruptcy.
Why so much low-wage work? Because over the past 40 years, well-paying industrial jobs disappeared, unions lost much of their clout, the minimum wage stagnated and the field of competition in many areas became globalized.
The result: Half of U.S. jobs now pay $34,000 or less a year. A quarter of U.S. jobs pay less than $22,000, the poverty line for a family of four. And the wages for those jobs have been stuck for four decades. Today, they pay only 7 percent more than they did in 1973.
– an excerpt from Peter Edelman’s op-ed on Other Words, a project of the Institute for Policy Studies. Edelman recently published a new book on the state of poverty in America, So Rich, So Poor. Click here to read our interview with Peter Edelman from May 29, 2012.