Organizations & Government Sites
U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics
This website provides very detailed statistical information on employment, wages, earnings and benefits according to criteria such as geographic location, gender, race, education and occupation. Much of the information is collected by the Bureau of Census, and the most recent sets of data are from January 2006.
U.S. White House: Welfare Reform Works
This page on the White House website lays out the president’s welfare reform agenda. Read more about President Bush’s Welfare Reform Plan, read speeches he has made on this issue and download “Working Toward Independence” (PDF), the president’s plan to strengthen welfare reform.
Economic Policy Institute: Living Standards and Labor Markets
This think tank provides research and education to promote “a prosperous, fair and sustainable economy.” Their site includes fact sheets and issue guides on topics including Living Wage, Minimum Wage and Poverty and Family Budgets. Other resources include the Basic Family Budget Calculator, which tells you the income required to have a basic standard of living in different communities across the country, and Economic Snapshots, a series of graphical representations that illustrate economic issues and hardships faced by American families.
The Heritage Foundation: Labor Research
Conservative think tank Heritage Foundation argues against raising the minimum wage in a series of reports that show that a wage increase will increase workers’ job prospects without reducing poverty. The Welfare Reform at 10 report analyzes caseload fluctuations over the period of 1996 to 2002 and asserts that welfare reform went more smoothly than critics expected and has been effective. (August 17, 2006)
The Brookings Institution: Welfare Reform, Success or Failure? It Worked
Senior Fellow Ron Haskins’ report on the 1996 welfare reform law points out that there are many successes to report, as well as some additional factors to consider in evaluating the effects of welfare reform. Additional materials on the site include a transcript of Haskins testimony to Congress on the outcomes of welfare reform and a briefing on poverty and income in 2005. (2006)
The Annie E. Casey Foundation: “Working Hard, Falling Short”(PDF)
This national report from the Working Poor Families Project, a national initiative sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation, provides assessment of the circumstances of and responses to low-income families in America. (October 2004)
U.S. Department of Labor: A Profile of the Working Poor (PDF)
This report examines the nearly 36 million people living at or below the poverty threshold and analyzes this demographic according to gender, age, education and more. (2003)
Fairness Initiative on Low-Wage Work
This initiative’s website includes fact sheets on low-wage work, reports on the effects of Hurricane Katrina on low-wage workers, podcasts, a list of recent articles on the subject and research on low-income families in America.
Institute for Research on Poverty
This non-profit, nonpartisan research institute, based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, looks into the causes and consequences of poverty and social inequality in the United States with a specific focus on the state of Wisconsin. Their website includes answers to Frequently Asked Questions about poverty and special reports on various aspects of poverty.
The New York Times: What is a Living Wage?
This extensive article chronicles the movement for a living wage across the United States, examines the arguments of proponents and opponents, and takes a look at the consequences of raising the minimum wage in Santa Fe, New Mexico to $8.50 for businesses that employ more than 25 people. (Registration required, January 15, 2006)
The Washington Post: Class Questions
A groundbreaking poverty studies program at Washington and Lee University has some of the country’s most affluent students pondering why they have — and others have not. (Registration required, August 6, 2006)
The New York Times: Class Matters
A team of reporters spent more than a year exploring ways that class — defined as a combination of income, education, wealth and occupation — influences destiny in a society that likes to think of itself as a land of unbounded opportunity. (Registration required, May 2005)
Business Week: Working… And Poor
In today’s cutthroat job market, the bottom rung is as high as most workers will ever get. But the political will to help them seems a long way off. (May 31, 2004)
The National Review: We’d be the Poorer Without It
The editors of the National Review look back on ten years of welfare reform calling it the “most successful transformation of social policy in 50 years.” (August 17, 2006)
The Baltimore Sun: Welfare reform worked, but poverty lingers on
Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page weighs in on the successes and shortcomings of welfare reform. (August 15, 2006)
The Chicago Tribune : Half Fixed or Half Broken?
Although the welfare reforms of 1996 helped reduce the number on the public dole and increased employment, Jeffrey Grogger, co-author of the book, Welfare Reform: Effects of a Decade of Change, says more work remains to complete the job. (August 13, 2006)
Christian Science Monitor: Lessons of welfare reform, 10 years on
The editors of the Christian Science Monitor newspaper look beyond welfare reform to other govermental programs and what the success of welfare reform and the programs it created might mean for other governmental programs like Social Security, Medicare and even farm subsidies. (August 4, 2006)
The Economist: Helping the Poor: From welfare to workfare
The editors of The Economist visit Chicago, Cleveland and Milwaukee to evaluate the effects of ten years of welfare reform on America’s poor. (July 27, 2006)
The Economist: Welfare to work: Tough love works
The editors of The Economist look abroad to see how America’s “pathfinding reform folds lessons for other countries.” (July 27, 2006)
Interview with “Waging a Living” Filmmaker Roger Weisberg (Read the Full Interview)
Filmmaker Roger Weisberg talks about how he found the people featured in “Waging a Living,” why there is a lack of media coverage of this issue and his use of cinema verité style in the film. (Download the MP3, 15 Minutes, 5.2 MB)
Chicago’s Big Box Ordinance (Read the transcript)
In July 2006, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance which required retailers with a gross annual sales of $1 billion to pay their workers $10 an hour with $3 in benefits by 2010. How will this affect the citizens of Chicago? Amy Goodman talks to Chicago alderman and organizers to find out. (Download the MP3, 32 Minutes, 11.2 MB)
Poverty in New York City (Read the transcript)
One in five New Yorkers live in poverty, and a majority of them say the city is on the wrong track. Amy Goodman talks to experts about the lives of these low-income New Yorkers to find out about their wages, their access to health care and education, and their struggles to improve their lives. What can New York City government do to improve the lives of these citizens? (Download the MP3, 51 Minutes, 18 MB)
History of Workers’ Movements in the U.S. (Read the transcript)
Legendary historian Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States, talks to Amy Goodman about working people’s movements from colonial times to the current struggle toward a living wage. (Download the MP3, 35 Minutes, 12 MB)
Beyond a Living Wage (Read the transcript)
Living wage campaigns have succeeded in raising wages in various regions all over the country. Amy Goodman takes a national look at the struggle for a living wage, and talks with experts about the future of the living wage movement. (Download the MP3, 40 Minutes, 14 MB)
Barbara Ehrenreich (Read the transcript)
Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed, talks with NOW host David Brancaccio in a special conversation on the state of American workers and wages today. (59 minutes)
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The Working Poor in New York City (Read the transcript)
Learn more about the local responses to the issues raised by “Waging a Living” from this Thirteen/WNET New York panel discussion, featuring civic leaders, policy makers, educators, advocates and community groups. (63 minutes)
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ALSO ON PBS AND NPR
NOW: Income and Inequality: Life on Low Wages
NOW with David Brancaccio takes a look at Americans making do on the low end of the wage scale and examines arguments for and against raising the minimum wage. (December 2, 2005)
Newshour: Conversation: The Working Poor
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Shipler observed some impoverished working Americans and their families for years to research his new book, The Working Poor. Newshour correspondent Ray Suarez speaks with Shipler about his book and the interlocking problems that challenge the climb out of poverty. (April 1, 2004)
Frontline: Does America Still Work?
This Frontline episode asks how far business can or should go to protect its work force and features interviews with former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, Chrysler CEO Robert J. Eaton and more experts. (May 21, 1996)
People Like Us: Social Class in America
This film shows how social class plays a role in the lives of all Americans, whether they live in Park Avenue penthouses, Appalachian trailer parks, bayou houseboats or suburban gated communities. Read more about the film here on the companion website, and play interactive games find out about your own class attitudes and assumptions.
Store Wars: When Wal-Mart Comes to Town
Every day a new megastore opens somewhere in America. But in Ashland, Virginia (population 7,200), a group of citizens takes on the world’s largest retailer along with the town’s establishment. Store Wars follows the controversy that tears the town apart, examining in the process the impact of big-box stores on small-town America.
This NPR webpage aggregates all of the radio network’s stories about those struggling to make ends meet in America. Profiles of low-wage earners and resources about poverty can be found on the right side of the page.
NPR.org: A Primer on Minimum Wage
The minimum wage is of maximum importance when it comes to welfare reform and poverty reduction. Learn more about how the value of an honest day’s work is measured in the United States. (August 1, 2006)
Talk of the Nation: Ten Years of Welfare Reform
Ten years ago, President Clinton signed the landmark welfare reform law. In his words, it would make welfare “a second chance, not a way of life.” Critics charged it would make life even harder for the poor. Guests Katherine Boo, Ron Haskins, mark Greenberg and Wade horn examine a decade of welfare reform and changing attitudes about public assistance. (August 17, 2006)
News & Notes with Ed Gordon: Minimum Wage Hike Going Nowhere, for Now
A bill to raise the minimum wage languished last week in Senate limbo while Democrats and Republicans debated their visions for America’s changing economy. Ed Gordon talks with outspoken wage-hike advocate Rep. George Miller (D-CA). (August 8, 2006)
News & Notes with Ed Gordon: Making a Living Wage in Los Angeles
Los Angeles was one of the first cities to enact a so-called living wage law in 1997. The law requires companies that do business with the city — such as airport restaurants or parking lots — to pay workers at least $9.08 per hour with health benefits, or $10.33 without. The law currently covers 10,000 workers. Robin Urevich profiles one worker making a “living wage.” (January 25, 2006)
Talk of the Nation: Fighting Poverty in America
In Portland, Oregon, a program helps high school dropouts finish their education. A faith-based group in Orlando, Florida, uses religion as part of job training. NPR takes a look at efforts around the country that aim to tackle poverty in a variety of ways. (January 17, 2006)
News & Notes with Ed Gordon: A Hand Up, or Bad for Business?
Living wage advocates say a hike in the federal minimum wage will help people out of poverty, but critics contend that hiking the minimum wage prices low-skilled workers out of the market and punishes small businesses. Ed Gordon explores the issue with economists David Swinton of Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina, and Bernard Anderson, professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania. (January 25, 2005)