Policy Reports

Policy Reports

Faculty conducts applied research to analyze workplaces, industries, worker organizations and employment conditions for private sector clients and in partnership with community organizations.

Utilizing a variety of research techniques including data collection and analysis, survey methods, and oral interviews, LEP contributes to both practical and scholarly understanding of issues facing workers and regional economic trends.

UNION REPRESENTATION DURING A PANDEMIC | The Case of K-12 School COVID Protocols, Public Health and Individual Autonomy

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound effect on the Illinois educational workforce, creating a complex interplay between public health measures, individual autonomy, and union dynamics. This report, based on a survey of Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) members, highlights these multifaceted responses to vaccine mandates and the intricate position of teachers’ unions during these unprecedented times.
Read full report here.


A Child Tax Credit is a credit for each child or dependent that households can claim on tax returns. The federal Child Tax Credit covers children under 17 years old and was temporarily expanded in 2021 under the American Rescue Plan Act. The expanded Child Tax Credit increased the amount of the credit, included 17-year-olds, introduced monthly payments to eligible households, and was made refundable, significantly increasing tax refunds for low- and middle-income families. With the expanded federal credit expiring but polls showing broad public approval of the policy, at least 14 states—including Illinois—have considered implementing their own Child Tax Credits. Currently, 15 states have enacted Child Tax Credits.
Read full report here.


In November 2022, Illinois voters approved the Workers’ Rights Amendment, guaranteeing the fundamental right of workers to unionize and bargain collectively. The Amendment passed with 2.2 million votes, receiving 59 percent approval on the question and 53 percent yes votes among all ballots cast.
In the summer of 2023, the Project for Middle Class Renewal at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign conducted an online survey of 970 rank-and-file union members in Illinois who voted in the 2022 midterm election to assess how they voted on the Workers’ Rights Amendment. The margin of error was ±3.1 percent.
Read full report here.

AI AND THE FUTURE OF WORK IN ILLINOIS | An Assessment of Workers at Risk by Automated Technologies

The rapid development of artificial intelligence (AI) and other automating technologies generates concerns among scholars, policymakers, and workers’ representatives. AI is expected to bring profound transformations to the workplace, and preparing for these changes will facilitate a smoother transition into the future.
In 2022, the Illinois Task Force on the Future of Work produced a comprehensive report highlighting areas for attention regarding how new technologies will impact the workforce, acknowledging potential impacts on wages, occupational trends, and the nature of work itself.
Read full report here.

A DECADE OF ILLINOIS’ MIGRATION PATTERNS | Providing Demographic, Geographic, and Socioeconomic Context

Reports of Illinois’ population decline have been greatly exaggerated due to a reliance on faulty Census estimates instead of actual counts of people. An analysis of Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement survey data from 2013 through 2022 and Illinois Department of Revenue data from 2010 through 2020 can provide clarity and context, as well as important details on who is moving out of, moving into, and staying in Illinois. Read full report here.

City of Chicago Tipped Worker Report

This report consists of two chapters addressing potential reforms for tipped minimum wage in the City of Chicago. The Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection sought the assistance of the University of Illinois and the University of Chicago in conducting a study required by the Chicago City Council that examines the economic impact of tipped wages and the effectiveness of current enforcement in Chicago.
The first chapter, by Alison Dickson and Augustus Wood, analyzes collected survey responses of tipped restaurant and bar employees working in Chicago in an effort to identify employment violations and financial hardships experienced by workers. The second chapter, by Matthew Notowidigdo and Jeremy Mopsick, focuses on recent minimum wage reforms from cities across the country with special attention on tipped workers and minimum wage noncompliance in order to draw lessons for potential minimum wage reform in Chicago.
Read full report here.

STUDY | Workers at Illinois’ Public Universities Earn Significantly Less than Peers in State Government

Workers at Illinois’ public universities are earning between 14% and 20% less than their counterparts employed directly by state government agencies, according to a first-of-its-kind study released by the Project for Middle Class Renewal (PMCR) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI).
Read full report here.


So-called “right-to-work” laws are government regulations that prohibit employers and unions from voluntarily ensuring that each member who accrues a return from collective bargaining also contributes a fair share. They allow workers to forgo union membership but require unions to continue providing services and benefits to those who do not pay. This reduces the resources that unions have available to advocate for workers and organize new members, weakening worker bargaining power. Read full report here.

THE STATE OF THE UNIONS 2023 | A Profile of Unionization in Chicago, in Illinois, and in the United States

Public approval of labor unions remains at a six-decade high, with bipartisan support from across the political spectrum. Data shows that union workers earn higher wages, are more likely to have health insurance coverage, and have greater access to paid leave. Though the unionization rate fell nationally for the second consecutive year, the United States added union members in 2022 for the first time since 2017. Today, Illinois’ union membership rate is about 13 percent, which is significantly higher than the national average (10 percent) and is the 12th-highest union density among the 50 U.S. states. Read full report here.

CONSTRUCTION APPRENTICESHIPS AS A CAREER DEVELOPMENT ALTERNATIVE IN INDIANA | Enrollment, Diversity, Hours, Completion Rates, and Earnings in Registered Apprenticeship Programs

Registered apprenticeships are training programs in which participants “earn while they learn” with tuition costs covered by employers or joint labor-management organizations, who gain access to a stable pool of skilled workers. Apprenticeship training is particularly important to combating skilled labor shortages in construction. Read full report here.