What do rapid economic growth and progressive policies mean for workers in low-wage jobs and the families they support? How are they experiencing this transformation in Seattle? Can they find stability, opportunity, and mobility in the context of rising inequality? To what extent do city labor laws promote these goals?
To examine these questions, public policy scholar Heather Hill, in collaboration with Jennifer Romich (University of Washington) and Angela Bruns (University of Michigan), will analyze longitudinal data from a qualitative study of low-wage workers in Seattle. Preliminary analyses suggest that city-level policies can improve the lives of low-income workers, but that these efforts have only a small effect on reducing the gap between the poor and the wealthy. Hill and her colleagues will document workers’ objective and subjective financial wellbeing, their experience combining earnings and public assistance, and their experience with finding agency and support. The analyses will focus on four areas: 1) living in an era of inequality; 2) making sense of economic struggles; 3) navigating work and the safety net; and 4) finding agency and support. Across these topics, they will also explore the role of racial/ethnic identity, nativity, and family composition in how workers make sense of their financial situations.