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When Is a Job Just a Job—and When Can It Launch a Career?

The Real Economic Opportunities of Middle-Skill Work
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When Is a Job Just a Job—and When Can It Launch a Career?

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What does it take to move into the middle class in early 21st-century America? This report, conducted in partnership with JFF, tells an important part of the story: the career advancement prospects of people entering middle-skill jobs.

For decades, middle-skill work offered strong economic opportunities without requiring a four-year college degree. But it’s hard for many middle-skill workers to get ahead today. Our research finds that, contrary to conventional wisdom, different middle-skill jobs offer considerable differences in advancement potential and financial stability.

This report is based on the unprecedented analysis of nearly 4 million resumes of middle-skill jobseekers across the country. To add dimension to the data, the authors created four fictional characters whose career trajectories represent typical experiences revealed by the research. Their narratives, referenced throughout the report, are intended to illustrate the millions of people struggling to find middle-skill work that offers financial stability and true economic advancement.

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When Is a Job Just a Job—and When Can It Launch a Career?

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