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Abstract

Start with a statistic that should be burned into the brain of every American. If one looks at young males eighteen to twenty-five years of age who work full-time for a full year — eight hours a day, five days a week, fifty-two weeks a year — 18 percent of them could not earn a poverty-line income ($12,183 in 1990 dollars) in 1980. Ten years later, in 1990, that number had risen to 40 percent. Among young female workers eighteen to twenty-four years of age, the percentage unable to earn a poverty-line income despite full-time, full-year work rises from 29 to 48 percent over the decade. If the unemployed and part-time workers are added into the statistics, 73 percent of the young people who worked in America in 1990 could not earn a poverty-line income. Between 1988 and 1992, two-thirds of the American workforce has had to take a cut in their real, inflation-corrected wages. Unless something is done to reverse the current one percent per year decline in real wages, the numbers are going to be much worse a decade from now.

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