At least one in five residents living in smaller legacy cities are living in poverty.

While entrenched poverty is a problem in cities of all sizes, smaller legacy cities have much higher rates of poverty than their larger counterparts. To ensure that increased economic opportunity benefits all parts of the community, special attention must be paid to expanding opportunities for low-income workers. Job opportunity and access are key to ensuring a legacy city revival that benefits everyone.

One method of job market intervention is subsidized employment. According to MDRC, subsidized employment programs “provide jobs to people who cannot find employment in the regular labor market and use public funds to pay all or some of their wages. Some programs are designed primarily to provide short-term income support in poor economic times, while others also seek to improve long-term employment outcomes among ‘hard-to-employ’ groups.

While many experimental programs have been at the state level or higher, there is precedent for local subsidized employment programs. Before the turn of the century, business and community leaders in Milwaukee, Wisconsin operated “The New Hope Project” which was a demonstration program designed to be replicable by public agencies. The program consisted of:

  1. An earnings supplement to raise their income above poverty
  2. Low-cost health insurance
  3. Subsidized child care
  4. Referral to a wage-paying community service job for those unable to find full-time work

Participants were required to work at least 30 hours per week.

Subsidized employment programs, however, can take on many different forms but evidence does suggest they are successful in increasing opportunities for low-income workers and families.