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Two Big Improvements for American Workers

The Covid-19 pandemic was ghastly, but it did contribute to two improvements in the lives of working Americans on both ends of the wage spectrum.

Remote working mother with her young son

“After a brutal few decades in which low-wage jobs proliferated and the American middle class hollowed out, the working poor have started earning more - a lot more,” reports The Atlantic. “Many low-wage jobs have become middle-wage jobs. And incomes are increasing faster for poorer workers than for wealthier ones, a dynamic known as wage compression.”

The pandemic was just one part of the two-part equation to more money. The first part happened fast: pandemic-era stimulus checks gave workers the financial wherewithal to quit poorly paying jobs, assess their options, and go somewhere else that pays better. The second happened more gradually: the unemployment rate, after a decade of trending downward, is finally low enough that employers are being forced to raise wages and offer other benefits to attract workers. Together, these parts add up to companies like Target, for instance, which in 2022 raised its starting hourly wage to $15 - $24 and announced that workers clocking at least 25 hours per week would be eligible for health coverage.

On the other end of the spectrum, wages for high earners are static. However, the flexibility of the new era of remote work has led to a positive impact on marriage rates and family planning, reveals a new survey from the bipartisan public policy organization Economic Innovation Group.

Some questions in the survey showed a clear, positive link between remote work and intentions to start a family or have a second child. Remote workers were significantly more likely to plan on getting married in the next year than their in-office counterparts, potentially because remote work allows a much easier relocation to the same place as a partner. And for women over 35 - especially for women over 35 with two or more children already - remote workers had much higher intentions to have more children, suggesting, the survey analysis says, that remote work “may help older women balance the competing demands of work and family.”

As return-to-office rates are lower in major US cities than they are in international ones, reports The Atlantic, it does seem that in the US at least, the positive effects of remote work will continue to accrue.



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