Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!
Expand chart
Adapted from Brookings; Map: Axios Visuals 

Today's low-wage workers are concentrated in southern and western states and are often locked out of moving up economically because they can't afford to live in cities that offer better-paying jobs.

Why it matters: Low-wage and entry-level workers are more likely to be negatively affected by automation in the workforce and less equipped to weather an economic downturn, research suggests.

The impact: "My sense is a lot of people see what's happening around them — the move to self-service kiosks in retail and fast-food restaurants, the move to automation in warehouses," said Martha Ross, fellow at Brookings' Metropolitan Policy Program. "They feel replaceable and undervalued. They see technology as a threat."

What's happening: The share of low-wage workers varies widely between cities, according to a Brookings Institution analysis of data from across 373 U.S. metro areas.

  • The report defines "low-wage" workers to include all civilian 18- to 64-year-olds who worked at some point during the last year and who are currently in the labor force. The definition excludes some students and self-employed workers because they have different earning dynamics than wage workers.

High concentrations of low-wage earners are in the South and West.

  • In Las Cruces, N.M., and Jacksonville, N.C., low-wage workers make up 62% of the workforce.
  • In these places — like Yuma, Ariz., (57%) and McAllen, Texas, (56%) — low-wage workers tend to be Latino or Hispanic, caring for children and less educated.

Low-wage earners are less concentrated in the Mid-Atlantic, Northeast and Midwest.

  • California, Md., had the lowest share with 30%, followed by Rochester, Minn., (31%), Bismarck, N.D., (32%) and Hartford, Conn., (32%).
  • In these places, low-wage workers tend to be white and more likely to have a high school diploma or some post-high school education.

Yes, but: "Even in the most productive regional economies like San Jose, there are still millions of people who are struggling," Ross said. "We can't just look at 'left-behind' regions versus 'superstar' regions. There are plenty of left-behind people in superstar regions."

By the numbers: More than 53 million people — 44% of all workers aged 18-64 — are low-wage earners.

  • More than half are in their prime working years (25–54 years old). This age group is also most likely to be raising children (43%).
  • Low-wage earners are disproportionately female (54%).
  • About a third live below 150% of the federal poverty line, which is about $36,000 for a family of four.
  • About half of low-wage workers are either primary earners or contribute substantially to family expenses.

The most common jobs are retail workers, information or records clerks, food preparation, building cleaning and pest control workers.

Middle-wage jobs used to be the bedrock of upward mobility, allowing someone with a high school diploma and some training to get a job that paid enough to support a family.

  • But those middle-wage jobs evaporated quickly during the Great Recession and continue to dry up, per a recent McKinsey Global Institute report.
  • Fewer people are moving for work opportunities because they're discouraged by high costs, particularly housing, in job-rich cities.
  • Low-wage workers living in high-cost cities are likely to be limited to neighborhoods coping with poverty, unemployment and crime, per Brookings.

The big picture: Jobs and place are intrinsically linked. Education is often touted as the way to help people find better-paying jobs, but more training won't lead to higher-paying jobs if such jobs don't exist.

"If everyone got a bachelors degree, those low-wage jobs would not automatically become high-wage jobs."
— Martha Ross, Brookings Institution

The bottom line: There are not enough "good" jobs in enough places to help people escape low-wage work.

Go deeper

27 mins ago - World

Melbourne, "world's most locked-down city," to lift stay-at-home orders

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews during a news conference in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday. Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Melbourne's stay-at-home orders will end five days earlier than planned, officials in Australia's second-biggest city announced Sunday.

Why it matters: The capital of the state of Victoria has had six lockdowns totaling 262 days since March last year. That means Melbourne's spent longer under lockdowns than "any other city in the world" during the pandemic, Reuters notes.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

Up to 17 U.S. missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince earlier this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children were among up to 17 American Christian missionaries and their relatives kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, the New York Times first reported.

Details: The missionaries had just left an orphanage and were traveling by bus to the airport to "drop off some members" when the gang abducted them in Port-au-Prince, Haitian security officials said, per the NYT.

Venezuela suspends talks with opposition after Maduro ally extradited to U.S.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, in June. Photo: Gaby Oraa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key ally of Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro was extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. Saturday to face money laundering charges in Florida, Bloomberg first reported.

Why it matters: Venezuela's government called off negotiations with opposition officials that were scheduled for Sunday in Mexico in response to the extradition of Alex Saab, a Colombian businessman and financial fixer for Maduro. Security forces placed six U.S. oil executives under house arrest later Saturday, per AP.