Wage growth and economic mobility for workers with limited skills and education have stalled for several decades. Workers in low-wage jobs have had few opportunities to gain new skills, move up career ladders, and increase their wages. Some employers consistently offer opportunities for skill development for all workers, even those in entry-level, lower-wage jobs. Yet these innovative practices haven’t been adequately studied to see if they could be replicated or scaled.
How employers allocate tasks across entry-level and higher-level jobs could yield insights on how job design and employer-provided training could spur wage growth and economic mobility. Researchers Nathan Wilmers and Letian Zhang seek to build evidence on how employers allocate tasks and the effect of “bridging tasks”—higher-level tasks assigned to entry-level workers—on wage growth. They will test their ideas using data from Burning Glass Technologies, employee and employer longitudinal surveys, and other data sources to understand the relationship between task assignment and economic mobility. They will also produce case studies of jobs where bridging tasks enable low-wage workers to attain skills. Their research will help employers, managers, practitioners design jobs and training practices to accelerate economic mobility for workers in low-wage jobs.