Every day, working parents in low-wage jobs are desperate to keep food on the table and a roof over their families’ heads, and to provide a better life for their children. Yet, even when they work full time, they may not earn enough to lift their children out of poverty. They often have unpredictable work hours over which they have little control, making it difficult to arrange child care or manage other family responsibilities. And when they must miss work to meet the demands that all parents face—sick children, doctors’ appointments, parent-teacher conferences—their jobs may be at risk. For many low-wage working parents, the conditions of their jobs effectively set them up to fail: meeting both their work and family obligations becomes an impossible juggling act. And too often, despite their best efforts, parents’ low wages and work conditions undermine their children’s chances for success as well.
Set Up to Fail draws on academic and policy research as well as workers’ own stories to describe the interconnected challenges faced by low-wage working parents in meeting their work and family responsibilities. The report concludes by identifying policy areas to address as part of a multifaceted strategy for overcoming these challenges, which will serve to frame a forthcoming agenda for change.