It is not hard to understand why the labor force is shrinking when work is punished:
Pretend you are a poor, single parent of two in Chicago, earning $12 an hour, working full time, and determined to do what is best for your family. And suppose your employer, impressed with your work, offers you training for and promotion to a new job paying $15. Should you take the offer?
It sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s not.
At your present $12 an hour you are eligible for refundable tax credits, food assistance, housing assistance, child care assistance, and medical assistance worth $41,465 combined. Together with your earned income after taxes of $22,121, you are now bringing home to your kids about $63,586 a year.
If you take your employer’s offer, you’ll earn $5,451 more after taxes, $27,572. You will also become eligible for an Affordable Care Act (ACA) premium tax credit. But at that level of earned income all your other benefits would decrease by $8,336, more than your increase in net pay. That means the income you would bring home would decrease from $63,586 to $60,701.