For the first time in a long time, cities and states are looking seriously at increasing minimum wage. Yet as helpful and worthwhile as increasing pay for low-skill, entry-level workers is, changing only minimum wage policies misses the mark when it comes to supporting working families. Rather, the most critical policy issue is to revisit how eligibility requirements for key social services and health benefits prevent working families from moving up the social and economic ladder.
Recently I met with a single mother who lives in public housing in an affluent Boston suburb; her two children attend highly regarded public schools. After three years of juggling school and part-time work, she recently reached one of her professional goals: completing nursing school. She now has a full-time nursing job, increased salary, and a higher degree of personal and job satisfaction. But life has not become easier for her and her family.