Stepping Stones and Ladders: The Sources of the Mobility of Low Wage Workers in the United States, 1996-2012

This project analyzes the role that occupation-related skills—and changes in the demand for those skills caused by long-term changes in the occupational structure and short-term labor demand shocks—play in explaining why some low-wage workers “move up” along occupation-based pathways or “ladders” while others are left behind. While recent research suggests that changes in the occupational structure have led to increases in inequality and overall employment in low-wage occupations, it is not clear what the implications are for the mobility of individual workers. In particular, to what extent have changes over the past 20 years in the occupational structure affected the ability of workers to escape low wages? To answer these questions, the team utilizes data and statistical models that allow analysis of the relative importance of and interplay among worker skills, labor demand, and changes in the occupational structure on the mobility of low wage workers. Longitudinal data are linked on individual workers from four panels of the restricted access version of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), and monthly-matched data from the Current Population Survey, to geographic information on changes in industrial and occupational employment from the Quarterly Workforce Indicators (QWI) and the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES). Mobility rates are being modeled using latent class conditional logit models, which allow inclusion of characteristics of workers and detailed labor demand data on potential destination occupations in statistical analyses.

Principal Investigator: Ted Mouw

Funding Source: Russell Sage Foundation

Grant Number: 85-15-06

Funding Period: 12/1/2014 - 11/30/2016

Primary Research Area: Demography

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