Helping the Working Poor: Employer- vs. Employee-Based Subsidies
Syracuse University Center for Policy Research Public Finance Policy Brief No. 14/1999
32 Pages Posted: 28 Apr 2011
Date Written: August 1, 1998
In the United States and Europe there has been renewed interest in subsidizing firms that employ disadvantaged workers as a means of addressing poverty and other social problems. In contrast, the prevailing practice is largely to provide social welfare benefits directly to individuals. Which approach is better? We re-examine the relative merits of employee- versus employer-based labor market subsidies and conclude there are good reasons to continue to rely on the direct, employee-based approach. In practice, low-wage workers are seldom either low-skill or low-income workers. Furthermore, workers who might quality for a firm-based subsidy are reluctant to so identify themselves for fear of being stigmatized or labeled as "needy." Thus, employer-based subsidy programs have lower participation rates and correspondingly higher per capita expenditures than employee-based subsidy programs.
JEL Classification: I38, J31
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation