RAND Lowy Family Middle-Class Pathways Center

Stagnant or falling wages. Computers and automation. Newly irrelevant job skills.

For decades, the pathway to the American middle class has been obscured or blocked for too many. Changes in the workplace, new and emerging technology, globalization, and new expectations for workers mean that fewer and fewer Americans can expect to transition from high school to well-paying jobs that enable them to support families, retire with confidence, or bounce back easily from a disaster.

The RAND Lowy Family Middle-Class Pathways Center, launched as part of RAND’s Tomorrow Demands Today fundraising campaign, is committed to forging new and better paths toward equitable and sustainable work opportunities in today’s challenging world.

To assist workers, employers, and policymakers, we conduct pilot interventions, research, and analyses in three areas:

  • Skill Development

    Workers need to acquire relevant skills through education or experience to survive and thrive in the economy. The center's work shows why and how employers, education and training institutions, and workers can collaborate to make skill acquisition a priority in a rapidly changing world.

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  • Entrepreneurship

    Building and running a business can be an effective path into the middle class for many. The center's work focuses on how entrepreneurs can develop the kinds of agile firms needed to successfully navigate complex landscapes, and how policy can support—or hinder—entrepreneurial success in the United States.

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  • Workplace Technology

    The interactions between human workers and computers is a new and complex managerial frontier. The center’s work seeks to develop new decisionmaking tools to help managers advance techniques and strategies for more successful human-machine interactions and to anticipate the impacts of new technologies.

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New From the Center

  • Workers in Homeless Services Often Do Not Earn a Living Wage

    This report explores what constitutes a living wage in Los Angeles County and the barriers preventing workers in the homeless response sector from receiving such a wage. The authors examined what a living wage is in Los Angeles County using fair market rents for various unit sizes and several family configurations.

  • Barriers to Entering the U.S. Middle Class

    Achieving and keeping middle-class status has become more difficult. Jobs with good pay for those without a college degree are getting exported or eliminated. Earning educational credentials is costly. Existing jobs are increasing education requirements, providing fewer benefits, and may not lead to longer-term careers.

  • Who Is Middle Class?

    Depending on definition, the middle class has been either receiving less income (as a share of total) or shrinking in size since the 1970s. Lower-income Americans and their children will likely have limited opportunities for upward mobility.

  • A Consumption-Based Definition of the Middle Class

    In this paper, we develop a consumption-based measure of the middle class that closely follows economic theory of constrained optimization.