Public Cost of Low-Wage Work in New England Public Cost of Low-Wage Work in New England

By Ian Eve Perry and Ken Jacobs

The economic recovery has not affected all workers equally, and many workers rely on public assistance. Wage growth both nationally and in New England was mainly concentrated at the top of the economic spectrum, with those in the middle seeing small real-wage increases. While increases in the minimum wage raised wages for those at the bottom, wage levels still do not allow many families to reach economic self-sufficiency.

This brief analyses the utilization of public assistance and health programs by low-wage workers in New England. We find that despite some increases in wages for the bottom 10 percent, working families in New England still account for the majority of those enrolled in public health and assistance programs. Public programs continue to provide vital support to millions of working families in the region. Policies that raise wages would have the dual benefit of directly improving conditions for many working families and freeing up some of those public resources to better target those Americans who cannot participate in the labor market.