Why the Texas Middle Class Is Shrinking

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Report shows keys to reducing wage disparities and promoting economic growth

Over the past 30 years, the largest share of jobs at the center of the U.S. economy – known as “middle-skill jobs” – have been declining according to a report released today from the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and the Center for Public Policy Priorities. Middle-skill jobs are those that have historically paid middle-class wages for procedural tasks, like manufacturing assembly work or filing and data entry in an office. As these jobs disappear, more Texans must obtain higher levels of education and training to acquire skills valued in the labor market. Otherwise, they risk becoming trapped in a growing number of low-skill occupations that provide low-wages for manual and service labor.

The joint report surveyed all 28 regional workforce development boards in Texas. It measures how Texas communities are addressing the challenge of the declining middle class and identifies the most innovative and robust efforts to align workforce development activities across the state.

Regions in Texas that are addressing the declining middle class directly are building specialized “talent pipelines” to accomplish three important tasks:

  1. Identify businesses driving regional economic growth through industry cluster analysis 
  2. Convene these business leaders with education and training providers through a sector partnership that identifies skill gaps and other labor market challenges for their industry
  3. Work together to create and strengthen career pathways where needed to provide a skilled workforce for their region and employment opportunities for their residents. 

The report concludes with a set of recommendations on how some of Texas’ state-level entities can help support local efforts to build world-class talent pipelines to middle-skill, middle-wage jobs and beyond.

Read the full report here and download our 2-pager here.

As Director of the Economic Opportunity Program at the Center for Public Policy Priorities, Groves leads a team of policy analysts that strive to increase educational attainment and ensure economic prosperity for all Texans. Before joining the Center in 2014, Groves served as a Senior Policy Analyst at the National Governors Association where he worked with state and local entities on workforce, post-secondary education and economic development policy. He has served governors, senior policy advisors and local leaders on several initiatives designed to bolster talent development pipelines and align educational institutions, training programs and community-based organizations with employer needs and state economic development strategies. Preceding his work at the NGA Center, Groves oversaw the rigorous evaluation of education and training programs in the Office of Policy Development and Research at the U.S. Department of Labor, including random assignment evaluations of the YouthBuild program, Community-Based Job Training Grants and the ARRA High Growth and Emerging Industries grantees. He also served at various levels of Colorado state government, including the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, the Joint Budget Committee of the General Assembly, and the Office of the Lieutenant Governor. He received his master’s degree in public affairs from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, and his bachelor’s degree from the University of Denver.

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