How Should We Define Low-Wage Work? An Analysis Using the Current Population Survey

Fusaro, V., and Luke H. Shaefer. "How Should We Define Low-Wage Work? An Analysis Using the Current Population Survey." Monthly Labor Review (2016), available at http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2016/article/pdf/how-should-we-define-low-wage-work.pdf.
Low-wage work is a central concept in considerable research, yet it lacks an agreed-upon definition. Using data from the Current Population Survey’s Annual Social and Economic Supplement, the analysis presented in this article suggests that defining low-wage work on the basis of alternative hourly wage cutoffs changes the size of the low-wage population, but does not noticeably alter time trends in the rate of change. The analysis also indicates that different definitions capture groups of workers with substantively different demographic, social, and economic characteristics. Although the individuals in any of the categories examined might reasonably be considered low-wage workers, a single definition obscures these distinctions.