https://journals.sagepub.com/toc/fisa/currentCheck out our new Special Issue in Families in Society: Moving Beyond Poverty!

Social work has long been committed to eliminating poverty, which is at the root of many of the social issues and challenges we address. Over 40% of the U.S. workforce makes less than $15/hour, and the accumulating evidence suggests this is not enough to meet basic needs. In this introduction to a special issue about low-wage work, we describe what is known regarding the experiences and well-being of low-wage workers, as well as promising policy and practice ideas to better support working families. We provide an overview of the included articles and conclude with encouragement for social workers to move beyond a narrow focus on poverty and more broadly consider the struggles and well-being of low-wage workers and their families. Read more from our leading editorial here

Articles in this Special Issue…

From Scarcity to Investment: The Range of Strategies Used by Low-Income Parents with “Good” Low-Wage Jobs – Kess L. Ballentine, Sara Goodkind & Jeffrey Shook, University of Pittsburgh

“It is Truly a Struggle to Survive”: The Hardships of Living on Low Wages – Sandra Wexler, Rafael J. Engel, Elizabeth Steiner, & Helen Petracchi, University of Pittsburgh

At What Point Do Wages Make Ends Meet? Investigating the Relationship Between Wages and Material Hardship in New York City – Sophie Collyer, Center on Poverty and Social Welfare, Columbia University

Connecting Caregiver Wages and Distress: Felt Precarity, Parenting, and Child Behavior – Margo Campbell & Linda Houser, Widener University

Moonlighting to the Side Hustle: The Effect of Working and Extra Job on Household Poverty for Households with Less Formal Education –  Jennifer Scott (Louisiana State University), Kathryn Edwards (RAND), & Alexandra Stanczyk (Mathematica Policy Research)

Problems in Paradise: Low Wages and the Well-Being of Hawaiians – Howard Karger, Hawaii Pacific University


What does it mean to be a low-wage worker in America today? Despite economic growth, wages have been stagnant, with the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour unchanged since 2009.

So how do low-wage workers make ends meet? And what can be done to enhance their well-being and quality of life?


Understanding the struggles and strengths of low-wage workers is the first step in answering these questions.

The Pittsburgh Wage Study is a multi-year, mixed methods research program investigating the lives of low-wage workers and the impacts of incremental wage increases on their and their families’ well-being. Led by School of Social Work faculty at the University of Pittsburgh, the study generates information that can ultimately help advocates, policy makers, and employers ensure that Pittsburgh is a livable city for all of its citizens.


  • To learn more about the Pittsburgh Wage Study, Click here.
  • Interested in reading more about our research? Click here.
  • Want to find out about our involvement in the community and the policy arena? Click here
  • For information about the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Social Work, Click here