Skip to main content

Policies to Help the Working Class in the Aftermath of COVID-19: Lessons from the Great Recession

American Academy of Political and Social Science

August 23, 2021

By Richard V. Burkhauser, Kevin C. Corinth, and Douglas Holtz-Eakin


The COVID-19 pandemic and the associated government-mandated shutdowns caused a historic shock to the U.S. economy and a disproportionate job loss concentrated among the working class. While an unprecedented social safety net policy response successfully offset earnings losses among lower-wage workers, the risk of continued and persistent unemployment remains higher among the working class. The key lesson from the Great Recession is that strong economic growth and a hot labor market do more to improve the economic well-being of the working class and historically disadvantaged groups than a slow recovery that relies on safety net policies to help replace lost earnings. Thus, the best way to prevent a “k-shaped” recovery is to ensure that safety net policies do not interfere with a return to the strong pre-pandemic economy once the health risk subsides and that progrowth policies that incentivize business investment and hiring are maintained.

Click here to access the published version of the paper.

Click here to read the AEI Economic Policy Working Paper Series version of the paper.