Driving to Work - Doing Good for Our Economy

Sunday, February 28, 2010 | Margy's Blog & Updates


Our official research arm – the GAO – just released a new report about access to driving and license suspension. Thanks to Representatives Pete Stark, Jim McDermott, and Gwen Moore for their interest in the impact of state policy and practice on local economic conditions and economic license suspensions!

Mobility Agenda readers know that we encourage policy-maker focus on access to driving and the impact of license suspension on communities, employers, and workers. We’ve hosted a national roundtable and published our research on economic license suspensions. Read more about this topic here.

We’re pleased to see this interest in Congress. Read the report to learn more about promising alternatives to suspension in some places. 

Low-wage workers with access to a reliable car are more likely to work, earn more, and work more hours. So, lack of a driver’s license is a barrier to work. In addition, some jobs – especially in construction and health care – require a license of all applicants. For workers without a license, jobs may be inaccessible because a license is a prerequisite, or because a car is the only means of access to a job far from home. The most common reasons for license suspension and revocation are for non-driving offenses, as states have moved to use the license as a means to enforce other goals and raise revenue. The Mobility Agenda studies strategies to reduce the impact of license loss for economic reasons.



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News Brief - September 5

Friday, September 5, 2008 | News


Group pulling Ohio sick leave measure from ballot

Study: Few California Workers Aware of Family Leave Law
And fewer have taken time off. 

Sick and Fired: US Workers Struggle Without Paid Sick, Parental Leave
“A new report finds the United States ranks at the bottom of 21 high-income nations in providing parental leave for workers.”
In spite of the revelation that…
American Workers Overwhelmingly Support Paid Sick Days

How does Swedish parental leave work?
A jealousy-inducing example of “elsewhere.”  

Labor Market, Economy, Wages

Struggles for worker justice take on new urgency, intensity
“As we enjoy barbecue picnics and time off from work, we should also remember the most fundamental aspect of Labor Day: honoring workers and their struggles for rights.”

Tough economy worsens struggle for workers, job seekers
It’s a recurrent story – wages aren’t keeping up with inflation, it’s harder to recover from job loss, and job security is fading. It will take better jobs to build the economy we so wistfully remember.

For others, Census data paints a rosier picture:
The Real Economic Scorecard

Let’s Stop Minimizing Minimum Wage
“Two years ago, more than 650 economists, including five Nobel Prize winners, signed a statement saying state and federal minimum wage increases can ”significantly improve the lives of low-income workers and their families, without the adverse effects that critics have claimed.“

Health Care

Cost of caring for Missourians without health insurance impacts everyone in the state

Kids of Stressed, Low-Income Mothers Prone to Weight Problems
Making jobs better – and ensuring that hard work earns a living wage – is not only good for workers, but for the health of their families and communities as well.

Absence makes baby’s brain grow softer: Call for two years paid maternity leave

Education, Housing

Economic Diversity: Why We Measure It
US News ranks colleges according to the economic diversity of their student populations.

Affordable housing hard to come by on coast
Hurricanes: conveniently gentrifying neighborhoods for the wealthy everywhere.

Teen Pregnancy

Teen pregnancy is back in the public eye, with poverty, not Palin, apparently to blame:
Poverty, not sex ed, key factor in teen pregnancy
Cause for Alarm? Understanding Recent Trends in Teenage Childbearing

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News Brief - September 2

Tuesday, September 2, 2008 | News

Wages, Labor market

Renewing America’s ‘contract with the middle class’
“Workers were rewarded for their hard work with fair wages, benefits and advancement opportunities — and our economy and our national security were much stronger for it.”

Why unions matter more than ever
“According to Greenhouse, if wages had increased as fast as productivity since 1979, a full-time worker would earn $58,000 a year and not the $36,000 that was the average in 2007.”

Labor Day blues ensue:
Report: Labor Day finds workers worse off
Workers laboring to stay afloat
“”Even if the economy turns back up, what this business cycle showed us is while strong productivity growth is essential for rising living standards, it doesn’t guarantee rising living standards,“ Shierholz said.”
Economic gains of workers cut, nonprofit says
“On a day that the U.S. Department of Labor says is ”dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers,“ an analysis of the state economy this weekend shows that those economic achievements are eroding and that the number of those without jobs is rising.”

Editorial: Middle class squeeze threatens American dream

State’s minimum wage on the rise
“Roughly 26,500 New Hampshire workers were expected to benefit from the increase, most of them women, parents or older adults.”



IT Dads Push for Paternity Leave

Helping with a healthy balance
Companies offer a variety of benefits to supplement the Family Medical Leave Act.

Canada weak on worker benefits: Report
“Weak” for Canada sounds herculean when compared with US.



Jackson: Revive the war on poverty
When you’ve been losing a war for 40 years, isn’t it time to find a different strategy?

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What Ails the U.S. Labor Market: Too Many Bad Jobs

Monday, April 21, 2008 | Margy's Blog & Updates

Margy Waller, Executive Director, The Mobility Agenda

Writing in the New York Times Week in Review, Louis Uchitelle reviews the recent decline in the floor for wages in the U.S. labor market.

The $20 hourly wage, introduced on a huge scale in the middle of the last century, allowed masses of Americans with no more than a high school education to rise to the middle class. It was a marker, of sorts. And it is on its way to extinction.

Americans greeted the loss with anger and protest when it first began to happen in big numbers in the late 1970s, particularly in the steel industry in Western Pennsylvania. But as layoffs persisted, in Pennsylvania and across the country, through the ’80s and ’90s and right up to today, the protests subsided and acquiescence set in.

Hourly workers had come a long way from the days when employers and unions negotiated a way for them to earn the prizes of the middle class — houses, cars, college educations for their children, comfortable retirements. Even now a residual of that golden age remains, notably in the auto industry. But here, too, wages are falling below the $20-an-hour threshold — $41,600 annually — that many experts consider the minimum income necessary to put a family of four into the middle class.

The nation’s political leaders — Democrats and Republicans alike — have argued that education and training are a route back to middle-class wages for those who have fallen out. But the demand isn’t sufficient to absorb all the workers that the leaders would educate.

…. The trend in the hourly work force is striking. Take only the peak years in each business cycle, starting in 1979. The proportion earning at least $20 an hour declined from 23 percent that year, to 20 percent in 1980, to 18 percent in 1989, and to 16 percent in 2000. Manufacturing was hit the hardest.

Uchitelle doesn’t take the data to the next point, which is a focus of our research at The Mobility Agenda: the high proportion of the U.S. labor market made up of low-wage jobs. Our policy leaders haven’t focused nearly enough on the fact that the U.S. isn’t just losing better jobs, growth in low-wage jobs is changing our economy in ways that affect all of us. Our economy is heavily dependent on individual spending. When workers don’t earn enough to take care of daily expenses like housing, transportation, and food – spending and consumption decline. And that hurts the economy for all of us. As is apparent today.

Unfortunately, over. Even though the United States is among the wealthiest nations in the world, employers pay these workers less than workers who hold similar jobs elsewhere.

The last decade has seen some progress on advancing a number of well-known policies to improve job quality by boosting the minimum wage and expanding publicly subsidized employment benefits, like child care and wage subsidies such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. Likewise, we support efforts to address education and advancement strategies that prepare workers for skilled jobs.

Still, when one worker advances out of a low-wage job and another worker takes it, the job does not change.

In contrast to the manufacturing jobs, many of these jobs are in growth sectors like retail and hospitality, jobs that will not be off-shored because they are geographically specific.

At The Mobility Agenda, we’ve surveyed key contacts across the nation for new ideas and strategies to strengthen the labor market by improving these jobs. State and local stakeholders are experimenting with a host of new initiatives to improve low-wage jobs. These innovative ideas are less well known and are not commonly incorporated into the agenda of advocates and academics. For much more information about these new strategies, see our web based resources on this research, starting here.

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Memo to Congress: The Labor Market has Changed! Paid Leave is a Necessity

Friday, April 18, 2008 | Margy's Blog & Updates

Here’s an update from The Mobility Agenda’s Senior Research Associate Sarah Sattelmeyer and Executive Director Margy Waller, coauthors of a forthcoming report on work-life policies for the United States

A work-life policy expansion for federal employees is running into some trouble as it moves through Congress, according to today’s Washington Post:

Yesterday, Rep. Kenny Marchant (Tex.), the ranking Republican on the federal workforce subcommittee, and Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said that they were concerned about the cost of providing paid parental leave and whether this was the time to grant a new benefit to federal employees.

Federal employees should not receive increased benefits during an economic slowdown, when companies are cutting back, Issa said. By considering paid parental leave for them, “we are making a statement that we are out of touch,” he said.

Is Representative Issa overlooking some important changes in our economy and labor market:

In her statement yesterday, Maloney thanked Waxman and the subcommittee chairman, Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.), for moving the bill toward a full committee vote and a floor vote.

The American workplace, she said, has not kept pace with the changing needs of families, especially those that “no longer have a stay-at-home parent to provide care for a new child.”

Outdated family-leave policies, she said, “are a talent drain on the government — they’re an incentive for skilled people to look elsewhere for work at the very time when our government needs them most.”

The Mobility Agenda’s forthcoming report on work-life policy proposals to strengthen the economy and our labor market addresses these issues. Watch for it soon!

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