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The Living Wage Movement

The Living Wage Movement

What Is It, Why Is It, and What's Known about Its Impact?

(p.99) 3 The Living Wage Movement
Emerging Labor Market Institutions for the Twenty-First Century
Jared Bernstein
University of Chicago Press

Although living wage movements have appeared throughout this century, the contemporary movement is centered on a specific policy: passing a local ordinance to raise the wage floor for a specified group of workers covered by the ordinance. This chapter focuses on the living wage movement in the United States and whether it is an effective policy tool for raising the living standards of the working poor. It first suggests a typology for the different local ordinances currently in place based on coverage, wage levels, and other requirements. It then considers the arguments for and against living wages, focusing on the motivations behind the campaigns, such as the increase in wage and income inequality, the increase in privatization of public services, and the increase in the use of tax abatements to increase local economic activity. It also discusses the arguments of those who oppose living wages. One innovative approach with the potential to meet both the goals of the movement and concerns of those who oppose living wages is combining a living wage with a local Earned Income Tax Credit.

Keywords:   living wage movements, living wages, living standards, working poor, local ordinances, Earned Income Tax Credit, tax abatements, income inequality, privatization, United States

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