Poverty wages come at ‘high cost to taxpayers’


On April 15, low-wage workers held protests across the nation, including this march in Berkeley. (UC Berkeley photo by Anne Brice) photo)

In an opinion piece published on Tax Day, April 15 — which was also a national day of action by low-wage workers — Berkeley’s Ken Jacob writes that “after decades of wage cuts and health benefit rollbacks, more than half of all state and federal spending on public assistance programs goes to working families who need food stamps, Medicaid, or other support to meet basic needs.”

“Let that that sink in,” Jacobs writes in the Washington Post. “American taxpayers are subsidizing people who work — most of them full-time  (in some case more than full-time) because businesses do not pay a living wage.”

Researchers at the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, which Jacobs chairs, analyzed state and federal spending for public-assistance programs. They found, for instance, that 52 percent of state public-assistance spending supports working families – “with costs as high as $3.7 billion in California, $3.3 billion in New York, and $2 billion in Texas.”

Read Ken Jacob’s piece on the high public cost of low wages in the United States.

Related information: “Poverty-level wages cost U.S. taxpayers $153 billion every year,” a NewsCenter report on (with links to) findings by the Center for Labor Research and Education.