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Stepping Stone Versus "Dead End" Jobs: Occupational Pathways Out Of Working Poverty In The United States, 1996-2007

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Executive Summary

In this paper the authors test for the existence of pathways of upward mobility for low wage workers by studying patterns of mobility in the 1996, 2001, and 2004 panels of the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). Based on a theoretical model of skill sorting versus learning, they argue that "Stepping stone" links of upward mobility can be identified by whether the accumulation of experience increases the probability of movement between these occupations. In contrast, a "Dead end" job is one which both pays low wages and where the accumulation of occupational experience does not increase the rate of upward mobility.

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