As the 21st century began, state officials and workforce development practitioners were taking advantage of a strong economy, low unemployment, and flush government budgets to expand opportunities for low-wage workers to achieve self-sufficiency. Then, the economic and fiscal situation deteriorated—dramatically in many states. Yet some states, program operators, and others have found ways to maintain efforts to advance low-wage workers in the face of exceedingly difficult conditions. Their achievements—and the limitations they have encountered—provide a body of experience for understanding how advancement initiatives can succeed even as the environment for them deteriorates.
Opportunity in Tough Times describes and draws lessons from extensive interviews with state officials and practitioners.