Areas of Focus

Demographic disparities

Many workers in the US experience limited opportunities and are over- or underrepresented in certain kinds of jobs because of occupational segregation and discrimination. They are affected in adverse and unequal ways in the labor market based on race, ethnicity, gender, age, ability, and other demographic characteristics. WorkRise generates evidence on and elevates our understanding of how demographic disparities and inequities can be addressed to promote economic mobility for all workers and create a more equitable labor market.
View Topic

Economic context

People’s access to opportunity and advancement in the labor market is shaped by macroeconomic forces, technological change, policy choices, and labor market dynamics. Over the past 40 years, these influences have culminated in greater income inequality and less upward economic mobility for US workers. They have also contributed to a growing share of low-wage jobs in the US labor market. WorkRise generates evidence on and elevates our understanding of how macroeconomic, technological change, policy, and labor market dynamics influence economic security and mobility.
View Topic

Employer practices

Employer practices such as hiring, scheduling, promotion, supervision, and on-the-job training determine workers’ day-to-day reality and long-term prospects in the labor market. The growing prevalence of independent contractors and contingent workers underscores the continued fissuring of employer-employee relationships.
View Topic

Federal policy

The federal government has a significant influence on shaping workers’ economic mobility and security. Federal laws, policies, and regulations govern wages, benefits, workplace standards, and protections against discrimination and unsafe working conditions. Federal policy governs income support and social insurance programs such as Social Security, and recent fiscal and monetary policies intended to provide economic relief to workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
View Topic

Financial stability

Savings, asset-building, and access to credit play a significant role in driving upward economic mobility, particularly across generations. These factors not only allow workers to raise their standard of living, they also provide a financial cushion to absorb shocks such as a layoff or medical emergency. Although workers in low-wage occupations often do not have access to credit or asset-building tools such as retirement savings, new models for building wealth and credit have emerged.
View Topic

Geographic disparities

Where people live can expand or limit their economic mobility. And labor market conditions vary considerably by locality. When examined, these differences across local economies and labor markets and urban, rural, and suburban geographies can reveal disparities in job opportunities. WorkRise generates evidence on and elevates our understanding of how geographic disparities can be addressed to promote economic mobility for all workers.
View Topic

Job search and matching

How people search for and match to jobs reflects how well the labor market is functioning for both workers and employers. Frictions that inhibit effective, efficient searches and matches can lead to worse outcomes for both. New search technologies, including online platforms assisted by artificial intelligence, could improve search and matching but raise questions about their equity and effectiveness. And understanding how switching jobs and occupations affects workers’ career paths and economic trajectories is also critical to improving mobility.
View Topic

Skills and training

Human capital development—or people’s ability to acquire skills and knowledge through education and training—advances workers’ economic opportunity and strengthens employers and the economy. Yet the complex landscape of skills and training is fragmented across institutions of higher education, public and private providers, and other credentialing programs. More importantly, human capital development alone does not lead to greater economic mobility, as many workers continue to face barriers to reaching their full potential in the labor market.
View Topic

Small businesses

Small businesses employ a significant share of the workforce and have been engines of wealth and prosperity, particularly for communities of color. Entrepreneurship is a core tenet of the American dream and has the potential to be a source of economic mobility, yet many small business owners struggle to access credit and financing. WorkRise generates evidence on and elevates our understanding on the connections between small business creation and family economic security and mobility.
View Topic

Stakeholder voices

WorkRise engages a diverse group of stakeholders to inform our strategy and carry out our mission of rebuilding a more equitable labor market so that all workers have access to opportunity and upward mobility. Our Leadership Board, institutional partners, and other members of our network represent diverse perspectives across our core stakeholder communities.
View Topic

State and local policy

States and localities shape workers’ economic mobility and security through a number of channels. State and local agencies work with employers and workforce training providers to create economic opportunities for workers and help match people’s skills with employer needs. States and localities can also shape workers’ opportunity for upward mobility by enacting their own laws on minimum wage, occupational licensing, collective bargaining, paid leave, and programs such as universal prekindergarten.
View Topic

Supportive services

Social factors outside of work have profound effects on people’s ability to navigate and achieve upward mobility in the labor market. Family caregiving responsibilities, poor physical and mental health, a lack of reliable transportation, and food and housing insecurity can limit workers’ opportunities for mobility if supports such as child care, health care, coaching, transportation, and food and housing assistance aren’t in place.
View Topic

Wages and employer-provided benefits

Wages and employer-provided benefits such as health insurance, paid leave, and retirement savings are fundamental components of job quality. They are primary drivers of people’s economic security and mobility that are determined by a complex set of levers, including market forces, industry norms, employer decisionmaking, and public policy. WorkRise generates evidence on and elevates our understanding of how wages and benefits affect workers’ economic security and mobility.
View Topic

Worker voice, representation, and power

Unions, collective bargaining, and other forms of advocacy have resulted in better wages, benefits, and working conditions for workers. Organized labor, however, is at a crossroads, as union membership has declined. As unions evolve to meet the needs of a globalized, 21st-century workforce, nonunion forms of worker organizing, sectoral bargaining, and worker representation on corporate boards have emerged as new forms of worker voice and representation.
View Topic