Beyond the Paycheck: Research on Employment and Wages

Aug 31, 2023

Strong employment opportunities and healthy wages have a singular ability to transform the lives of individuals, their families and communities at large. They can boost local economies, create safer neighborhoods, increase civic engagement and foster more prosperous societies.

And while we may be living in a time of global anxiety about inflation and a potential recession, we – as individuals and companies – have the power to change the current status quo on issues like employment and wages. We can use our collective voices, resources, knowledge and time to create a brighter, more financially secure future for all.

“Pressure and expectation for companies to be socially responsible has never been higher,” said Katie Stearns, chief global corporate solutions officer at Points of Light. “Points of Light’s research offers some insights into those expectations and can help business leaders identify where to start as they align employee engagement and retention with CSR and talent development programs.”

Read on to access insights from Points of Light’s research on employment and wages and learn how you and your company can make a difference in these issue areas.


Gen X Most Concerned with Employment

Our research found that people are especially concerned about employment (38%) and wages (33%) compared to other issues. Gen X is the generation most concerned with employment (41%), followed by Millennials (40%), Gen Z (38%) and Baby Boomers (35%), with only a six-point difference between the generations most and least concerned.

When it comes to wages, Millennials are the generation most concerned (36%), followed by Gen Z (35%), Gen X (33%) and Baby Boomers (27%). In fact, Points of Light’s 2022 report Civic Life Today: A Millennial Perspective revealed employment (job creation) and wages (increasing minimum wage) as two of the top social issues for Millennials. Respondents that identified as female (30%), Black American (33%) and earning $50,000-$99,999 (33%) were most concerned about wages.

Men and Women Have Different Priorities

Forty percent of men and 36% of women said early employment, or jobs at the beginning of a career, was one of their top areas of concern, while 34% of women and 31% of men identified wages as one of their top areas of concern. Men rate higher on concerns about early employment compared to women, whereas women rate higher on concerns about wages compared to men. This suggests that for men, gaining and maintaining employment are more top of mind, whereas women are more preoccupied with the pay their employers provide.

These analyses are backed up by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics’ report Women in the labor force: a data book, which found that in 2021, the U.S. unemployment rate was 5.2% for women and a slightly higher 5.5% for men. That same year, full-time working women were paid significantly less than their male counterparts at only 83 cents to the dollar.

“The empowerment of women is all about rights and equitable societies,” said Daily Points of Light honoree Robert Quintero. “Empowerment includes the action of raising the status of women through education, awareness, literacy and training.”

Taking a closer look at the gender pay gap, there was an even greater pay disparity for Black and Hispanic women. While the median weekly income for full-time working women of all races was $912, it was only $776 for Black women and $718 for Hispanic women. Additionally, “Black women and Hispanic women had higher jobless rates (8.0% and 7.2%, respectively) than Asian women and white women (5.1% and 4.6%, respectively). Men’s unemployment rates exhibited a similar pattern. The rate for Black men (9.2%) was higher than those for Hispanic men (6.5%), Asian men (4.9%) and white men (4.8%).”

These are far from the only instances of employment inequity across race and ethnicity. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics report identified that in 2021, the overall unemployment rate for the United States averaged 5.3%, but the rate varied across race and ethnicity groups. The unemployment rate averaged 8.6% for Blacks; 8.2% for American Indians and Alaska Natives; 8.2% for people of Two or More Races; 6.9% for Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders; 5.0% for Asians; and 4.7% for whites. The unemployment rate was 6.8% for Hispanics.”

See how Daily Point of Light Award honoree Robert Quintero promotes gender and cultural diversity in the workplace by advocating for the advancement of historically excluded and underrepresented young women in their careers.


An intersectional analysis of these generational, gender and racial differences shows that there is widespread concern about employment and wages across all ages for people in their prime working years. Yet, on average, women are paid significantly less than men, especially Black and Hispanic women, a demographic that also sees higher rates of unemployment, as do Black and Hispanic men.

Knowing these data points can help us understand who the issues of employment and wages affect most and where we can best position our resources to create the greatest impact. For those who wish to take action and drive real, sustained change, the Points of Light Civic Circle® is a framework that helps individuals connect to opportunities and understand that doing good comes in many forms from volunteering to voting to using your purchase power.

“Change starts with you,” said The Launch Project founder Sahana Ahuja. “Small steps lead to significant impact, and everyone has the ability to make a difference.”

See how Daily Point of Light Award honoree Sahana Ahuja takes on gender inequality by empowering girls to pursue fields in which women have been historically underrepresented.



Points of Light’s research on employment and wages asked why people are inclined to take action on these issues. Respondents said:

  • It makes me feel good to do something for others (employment: 43%, wages: 36%).
  • I believe the actions of one person can go a long way in making a difference (employment: 34%, wages: 32%).
  • A close friend and/or family member of mine has been impacted (employment: 27%, wages 32%).

We also looked into how people are choosing to take action.

  • On the issue of employment, 70% of respondents intentionally helped someone else (volunteered) and this was also identified as one of the most influential actions taken (83%).
  • 80% made a charitable donation to a cause or organization.
  • 70% took time to learn about the cause or social issue.
  • 69% posted or shared content on social media.

As with employment, volunteering was the most popular action on the issue of wages. 64% of respondents intentionally helped someone else (volunteered) and identified this as the most influential action taken (73%). Furthermore:

  • 60% took time to learn about the cause or social issue, which tied with volunteering for the perceived most influential action taken (73%).
  • 65% posted or shared content on social media.
  • 72% volunteered in person with a cause or organization.

See how Daily Point of Light Award honoree Shyla Talluri and her organization PURE (People for Urban and Rural Education) fight poverty by offering educational opportunities to under-resourced children and economic opportunities to their families.


Our Data Deep Dives show that one-third of people around the world are already concerned about employment and wages, and with ongoing discussions around the possibility of a recession, these issue areas will likely increase in importance on a great scale.

In our research on wages, the more financially inclined actions people can take toward this issue area, like donating and using their purchase power, did not make the list of Top Actions Taken or Most Influential Actions, nor did voting. So, even though a sizable portion of the global population is concerned about wages, and they or someone close to them has been directly implicated by this issue area, it will likely ultimately be up to the government and companies to drive more substantial change.

Take action now through in-person and virtual volunteer opportunities with Points of Light.


An Edelman article on the 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed that “economic optimism has collapsed globally (from 50% to 40%), with half of the countries surveyed showing a year-over-year double-digit decline in the belief that their families will be better off in five years’ time.” Fascinatingly and alarmingly, “Personal economic fears such as job loss (89%) and inflation (74%) are on par with urgent societal fears like climate change (76%), nuclear war (72%) and food shortages (67%).”

“Business is now viewed as the only global institution to be both competent and ethical” the report boldly stated, with business holding a “staggering 53-point lead over government in competence” and “29 points ahead on ethics.” Edelman CEO Richard Edelman declared: “The increased perception of business as ethical brings with it higher than ever expectations of CEOs to be a leading voice on societal issues. By a six-to-one margin, on average, respondents want more societal involvement by business on issues such as… economic inequality and workforce reskilling.”

Another Edelman article, albeit from the height of the pandemic, stated: “employees are now considered to have unprecedented material impact on a business,” even more so than customers, shareholders and communities the business serves. Referencing the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: Brands and the Coronavirus Pandemic, the article stated that a staggering “90% of consumers in 12 markets said that brands must do everything they can to protect the well-being and financial security of their employees, even if it meant suffering significant financial losses; otherwise, their brand loyalty would be impacted.”

So, how can companies meaningfully support their employees, who are now at an all-time high value, as well as address the dual issue of employment and wages, of which they are a central player? In our report on The State of Global Civic Engagement, 75% of global respondents and 72% of U.S. respondents agreed that seeing a company treat its employees well and provide fair pay and good benefits, including paid sick and parental leave, would help increase their trust in that company’s social issue efforts.

See how Daily Point of Light Award honoree Victor Rivera is enabling low-to-moderate income people and communities to improve their quality of life through his work with organizations focused on education, financial literacy and entrepreneurship.


Small businesses, with their personability and local connections, are particularly well-positioned to move the needle on employment and wages. Points of Light’s report Leading Locally: Small Business & Social Change found that the majority of the public shops at small businesses (nearly two-thirds of respondents purchased from a small business within the last month) and 40% of individuals “often” look for information on a small business’ social issue involvement.

We believe that – regardless of size – companies, their employees and their stakeholders can drive transformative social change when they work at the intersection of community needs, employee interests and company resources and priorities. Small businesses are built to wield influence at this intersection. For instance:

  • Today’s small business owners are already engaged in supporting social issues.
  • These small business owners are already exceeding whatever expectations the public has of them to be involved in the social issues of our time.
  • Small business owners are highly trusted individuals in their communities.
  • People are open to learning about social issues from small business owners.

Small business owners believe speaking out has the most influence on initiatives important to the public. Half of the public and two-thirds of small business owners ranked speaking out as “pretty important” or “essential.” Providing resources or opportunities for the community to learn about social issues is important to the public and essential to small business owners.

The public and small business owners agree that supporting local issues through both volunteer and non-volunteer (informal) activities is important. Small business owners felt slightly stronger about participating in supportive social issue activities than the public, though both groups said it was important.

The same goes for encouraging others to vote to influence local social issues. Both small business owners (61%) and the public (51%) generally agreed that small businesses should encourage people to vote as a way to influence local social issues, ranking this action as “pretty important” or “essential.”

Learn how your business can take action with Points of Light’s corporate services & solutions for community impact & employee engagement programs.


The best way for companies to prove their commitment to the causes of employment and wages is to show, not tell. Raise wages, at the very least enough to cover inflation and provide a living wage to workers. Provide strong benefits that empower employees to learn and grow on the job and to carry out their work responsibilities with peace of mind for their personal lives. Broadcast actions taken and encourage other companies to follow suit. These actions will compound to create competition for high-quality, low-turnover jobs held by productive, engaged and fulfilled employees.

And for individuals: listen and learn, use your voice, donate, volunteer and vote. Every one of us has the ability to be a point of light in creating a better world for employment and wages, and every other issue we care about.

Share Points of Light’s Deep Dives on Employment and Wages with those in your life who want to learn more about these issue areas and join in making a meaningful impact.

Points of Light

We are champions of civic engagement with a mission to inspire, equip and mobilize people to take action that changes the world.