Why do so many ‘essential’ workers get paid so little. Here’s what economists have to say

By Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham

April 12, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has divided the American labor force into two classes: those who are essential to keeping society running, and everyone else.

The essential workers harvest our food and stock our grocery shelves. They fulfill orders at warehouses and deliver goods all over the country. They drive our buses, gas our cars and keep our streets clean. They watch our children and care for us when we fall ill.

They also happen to be among the lowest paid in the country. So why the disconnect? And, conversely, why are relatively nonessential jobs in such fields as entertainment and finance so well-compensated? To find out, we asked economists across the ideological spectrum to explain.

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