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The Work Environment Index: Technical Background Paper

The vast majority of Americans work for a living. The track record of different states varies widely when it comes to providing decent opportunities for working people. The Work Environment Index (WEI) captures these differences and provides a basis for evaluating how well each state does in creating an economy that supports its working population. The purpose of this article is to detail the construction of the WEI and to explain the design of the Index. This paper serves as a technical companion to the report Decent Work In America: The 2005 Work Environment Index. Many factors contribute to a good environment for working people: quality jobs, adequate opportunities for employment, basic social protections, and being treated fairly. The WEI is a composite measure of these different dimensions and provides a basis for comparing the quality of the work environment in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The WEI has multiple objectives: 1) to capture and quantify the various dimensions of the work environment on a state-by-state basis. 2) to provide a direct, relatively transparent, and easy-to-understand measurement that is firmly rooted in publicly available data sources. 3) to provide a basis for making comparisons between the states that are fair and objective. 4) to create a tool for analyzing other socio-economic issues at the state level: e.g. poverty rate differentials, job quality and quantity trade-offs, and patterns of economic growth.

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