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. The federal government also oversees major safety net programs for workers with low incomes—such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Medicaid—and it invests in workforce development systems, including community colleges and career and technical education. In addition, federal policy related to taxes, trade, and business competition also influence workers’ economic well-being.

WorkRise generates evidence on and elevates our understanding of federal policies that facilitate or limit economic security and mobility.

Working Knowledge

Employer practices January 26, 2021

New Protections Needed for Contractors and Temporary Workers as Companies Continue to Outsource Labor

A new report highlights the need for an expansion of rights and protections for independent contractors and temporary workers, a growing share of the US workforce.

Archana Pyati

Wages and employer-provided benefits December 11, 2020

New Colorado Paid Family Leave Policy—and a Surging Pandemic—Creates Urgency for a Federal Paid Leave Program

Colorado joins eight states and Washington, DC as jurisdictions with paid family leave. Yet without a federal program, gaps in access to paid leave will persist.

Elisabeth Jacobs

Economic context December 14, 2020

Meet WorkRise's Inaugural Slate of Grantees

These nine projects will build new knowledge on accelerating economic mobility and advancing equity for workers in the U.S. labor market. 

Archana Pyati

Stakeholder voices November 20, 2020

A Q&A with Michael Strain

The director of economic policy studies at American Enterprise Institute says more work is to be done to ensure job training programs in the U.S. live up to their promise.

Elisabeth Jacobs


Wages and employer-provided benefits October 07, 2020

The Challenge of Slow Wage Growth

Because of sluggish wage growth, middle- and low-wage workers in the United States are today doing little better in real terms than similarly situated workers 40 years ago, exacerbating economic burdens experienced by workers during the current COVID-19 crisis. This brief examines the evidence on wage growth for the typical worker over several decades and concludes that efforts to rebuild the U.S. labor market must include policies to accelerate wage growth.

William J. Congdon

Demographic disparities September 28, 2020

Racial Inequality in the Labor Market and Employment Opportunities

This brief explores the persistent inequities and disparities in outcomes experienced by people of color in the U.S. labor market through key data points, delves into root causes based on a review of the evidence, and identifies key gaps in our knowledge of why and how labor market inequality endures.

K. Steven Brown