The high cost of low wages

NEW YORK TIMES: Families depend on public assistance despite steady employment.

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NEW YORK TIMES: Families depend on public assistance despite steady employment.

Nearly three-quarters of the people helped by programs geared to the poor are members of a family headed by a worker, according to a new study by the Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California. As a result, taxpayers are providing not only support to the poor but also, in effect, a huge subsidy for employers of low-wage workers, from giants like McDonald’s and Wal-Mart to mom-and-pop businesses.

“This is a hidden cost of low-wage work,” said Ken Jacobs, chairman of the Berkeley center and a co-author of the report, which was released Monday. Taxpayers pick up the difference, he said, between what employers pay and what is required to cover what most Americans consider essential living costs.

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