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Pathways to the Middle Class

Puerto Ricans in Low Wage Labor Markets and Workforce Development


The purpose of this study is to gain an understanding of Puerto Ricans in low wage labor markets on the island or stateside; the structural factors that contribute to the workers participation in these markets; how migration flows may play a contributing role in limiting opportunities, and the workforce-development system and community responses to the barriers impeding economic opportunities. The Ford Foundation funded our grant ($275,000) to commission a series of papers addressing critical aspects of and institutional responses to these problems of limited economic opportunities for low wage workers. We intend to use these papers as the basis for a national conference on the topic, with the proceedings to be published as a special issue of the Centro Journal

. Finally, we will produce a policy briefing targeting each of the two populations (island and stateside) under examination. The papers to be commissioned as part of this grant will include the following:



Puerto Ricans in Low Wage Labor Markets

Edwin Meléndez

Part I

Low Wage Labor Markets in Puerto Rico

  1. Structural Economic Changes and the Demand for Low Wage Workers

Angel Ruiz with Angel Rivera


  1. What Skills Do Employers Want from Low Wage Workers?

Maria Enchautegui

  1. Changes in the Structure of Low Wage Labor Markets and Migration Selectivity

Edwin Meléndez and Howard Caro-Lopez

Part II

Low Wage Labor Markets and Stateside Puerto Ricans

  1. Structural Changes in Low Wage Labor Market and Puerto Rican Workers

Joseph Pereira


  1. A Leaky Pipeline: Public Education and the Transition to Work

William Velez

Part III

System Responses

  1. The Second Chance System in Puerto Rico

Ramon Borges

  1. The Stateside Second Chance System for Puerto Ricans

Ramon Borges

Part IV Community Responses

  1. Career Ladders in the Education Industry

Carmen Mercado

  1. Community-Based Career Ladders in the Health Industries

Andrés Torres


  1. Community-Based Career Ladders in the Social Services Industry

Anthony De Jesús



Where do we go from here?

Edwin Meléndez