Livia Gershon | Longreads | March 2018 | 8 minutes (1,950 words)

Over the past few months, Starbucks, CVS, and Walmart announced higher wages and a range of other benefits like paid parental leave and stock options. Despite what the brands say in their press releases, the changes probably had little to do with the Republican corporate tax cuts, but they do reflect a broader economic prosperity, complete with a tightening a labor market. In the past couple of years, real wages hit their highest levels ever, and even the lowest-paid workers started getting raises. As Matt Yglesias wrote at Vox, “for the first time in a long time, the underlying labor market is really healthy.”

But it doesn’t feel that way, does it? From the new college graduate facing an unstable contract job and mounds of debt to the 30-year-old in Detroit picking up an extra shift delivering…

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