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- Dec 2022
One of the clear signs that the bottleneck to low-income adults working moreresults from their lack of opportunities is provided by looking at their hours of workover the business cycle. When the economy is strong and jobs are plentiful, low-incomeworkers are more likely to find work, find work with higher pay, and be able to securemore hours of work than when the economy is weak. In 2000, when the economy wasclose to genuine full employment, the unemployment rate averaged 4.0 percent and thepoverty rate was 11.3 percent; but in 2010, in the aftermath of the Great Recession, theunemployment rate averaged 9.6 percent and the poverty rate was almost 15.1 percent.What changed in those years was not poor families’ attitudes toward work but simplythe availability of jobs. Among the bottom one-fifth of nonelderly households, hoursworked per household were about 40 percent higher in the tight labor market of 2000than in recession- plagued 2010.Given the opportunity for work or additional work hours, low-income Americanswork more. A full-employment agenda that increases opportunities in the labor market,alongside stronger labor standards such as a higher minimum wage, reduces poverty.
How can we frame the science of poverty with respect to the model of statistical mechanics?
Unemployment numbers have very little to do with levels of poverty. They definitely don't seem to be correlated with poverty levels, in fact perhaps inversely so. Many would say that people are lazy and don't want to work when the general reality is that they do want to work (for a variety of reasons including identity and self-esteem), but the amount of work they can find and the pay they receive for it are the bigger problems.