Over the last decade, American social policy has increasingly focused on encouraging and requiring work for those receiving government supports. This study analyzes the dynamics of the low-wage labor market and the role of work supports in helping workers move toward economic self-sufficiency. Monthly data from January 2001 through January 2003 shows that over one-quarter of workers earn low wages. We find evidence that low-wage workers are moving to higher-wage jobs, but two years later, the majority of low-wage workers either remain in low-wage jobs or are not working. Our analysis provides some, although limited, evidence that government-provided work supports promote self-sufficiency.
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