A fixture in the community of scholars focusing on issues of poverty, inequality, and social policy for more than 40 years – Robert Plotnick – is retiring this spring from the University of Washington’s Evans School of Public Policy and Governance. Bob has long been a mentor and friend, and his retirement announcement provided me with a nudge and opportunity to read, Progress Against Poverty: A Review of the 1964-1974 Decade, published in 1975 with co-author Felicity Skidmore. Apart from being one of the first scholarly efforts to assess the impact of the War on Poverty, Progress Against Poverty has the distinction of being the first book volume commissioned by the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (IRP).
As minimum wage rates rise across many cities and states, there is a renewed discussion around how such laws affect workers and businesses. Less often discussed, however, is the impact of such laws on nonprofit organizations — in particular organizations that employ low-wage workers to provide care or services to the most vulnerable residents in our community. The latest report from the Minimum Wage Study at the University of Washington, examines initial nonprofit responses to the local move to $15 an hour.
Recently, the Furman Center at NYU posted a scholarly give-and-take exchange around issues of suburban poverty, segregation, and the safety net as part of its series The Dream Revisited. Following insight and commentary on race and suburbanization by Alan Berube, Georgette Phillips, and Thomas B. Harvey, my piece in this series turned to how local suburban safety nets are composed.
Recently, I published a short monograph on suburban poverty with a UW doctoral student, Sarah Charnes Paisner. Our monograph examines the suburbanization of poverty in metropolitan areas with a particular focus on the experience of the United States. Discussion highlights key trends and likely causes of suburban poverty and provides an overview of various attempts to classify heterogeneity across suburbs.
As part of a larger set of projects exploring local minimum wage laws, my Minimum Wage Study team at the University of Washington put out a report examining employer and worker perspectives at baseline. There are several interesting findings, even as we just are learning of the broader impact and consequences.
As the income inequality discussion continues to simmer across the country, municipal minimum wage ordinances have become hot topics of conversation in many cities. In January 2016, Seattle will implement its second step-up in the local minimum wage in 9 months, reaching $13 for many employers in the city and edging closer to a $15 an hour minimum that will apply to most firms by 2019. San Francisco will reach a $15 an hour minimum by July 2018. Yet cities as diverse as Birmingham, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Louisville have enacted or proposed similar minimum wage laws. It is too early to discern true impact of these local wage ordinances, but speculation abounds regarding whether or how the higher wage will affect firms and the earnings of low-wage workers.