Amy Traub

Amy Traub is associate director of policy and research at Demos. She is the author of "The Plastic Safety Net: Findings from the 2012 National Survey on Credit Card Debt of Low- And Middle-Income Households," and "Discrediting America: The Urgent Need To Reform The Nation's Credit Reporting Industry," among other reports and research. 

Recent Articles

West Virginia Teachers and the Working-Class Revolt

For years, states have cut school funding while reducing taxes on corporations. But teachers and workers are fighting back.

(Craig Hudson/Charleston Gazette-Mail via AP)
Sometimes, working people push back. Faced with jobs that don’t pay enough to make ends meet, health-care costs that break the budget, and public services exposed to countless rounds of cutbacks despite a growing economy, working people will push back. And, like the teachers across the state of West Virginia who walked out on strike for nine days and won meaningful raises and a freeze in health costs for all the state’s public employees, working people who push back sometimes win. The simple message that it’s possible to fight back and win is powerful. It is surely resonating with teachers in Oklahoma, who, like their counterparts in West Virginia, are among the most underpaid in the nation: They are preparing for their own statewide rebellion against the funding cuts that have harmed the education of Oklahoma’s children and left their teachers struggling to get by. But the resonance should be wider: Data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities show...

Wage Theft and Shoplifting: Same Cost, Different Deterrents

A massive force is deployed against one, but not the other. (Guess which.)

(Photo: Shutterstock)
Each year, shoplifters steal roughly $14.7 billion worth of goods from stores. (So says the Retail Theft Barometer .) Each year, employers steal roughly $15 billion from their workers by paying them less than the minimum wage, according to data from the Economic Policy Institute. The treatment of these two kinds of crime, however, are completely different. Many more resources go into trying to deter, detect, and punish the guy trying to pinch a video game system off the shelf at the local big-box store than into the grand theft the store itself may be perpetrating against its own employees—even if the retailer is taking millions of dollars from workers’ paychecks. It’s one more way that the economic crimes of the powerful are treated far less seriously than the transgressions of those with less power. In a recent study , I compared the damage from shoplifting with that from just one form of wage theft, the failure to pay workers the legal hourly minimum. Other forms...

How Walmart Could Afford to Pay $15 an Hour

Walmart workers have been fasting in the weeks leading up to Black Friday, demanding a living wage.

(Photo: AP/Invision for Walmart/Gunnar Rathbun)
As Black Friday approaches, retailers nationwide are waiting anxiously to see whether the nation’s busiest shopping day will deliver a boost in profits. But perhaps no company has more at stake than Walmart, the shopping behemoth that was the world’s largest retailer until Amazon supplanted it in that role this summer. Months after announcing a $1 billion investment in raising wages for its lowest-paid U.S. workers, Walmart slashed its annual sales forecast and saw its stock values plunge. Now Walmart faces more pressure than ever to perform for investors who want short-term results. But Walmart should keep its eye on long-term gains. While raising pay for workers may cut into profits temporarily, investing in its workforce will make Walmart—and the economy as a whole—stronger in the long term. Rather than shying away from the wage increase and cutting worker hours , Walmart can redirect the billions it spends on buying back shares of its own stock and double...

The Progressive Victory You Haven't Heard Of: NYC's Ban on Employment Credit Checks

The new law prohibits the discriminatory screening process, which disproportionately affects the poor and communities of color.

(Photo: AP/Mike Groll)
(Photo: AP/Mike Groll) In New York, your personal credit history is no longer any of your employer’s business. From universal pre-kindergarten to paid sick days, New York City’s fight against inequality has grabbed national headlines. But recently, the nation’s largest city has quietly taken the lead in dismantling a far less obvious barrier to opportunity: the employment credit check. Thanks to a new law , businesses can no longer discriminate against employees and job seekers simply because they’re late paying bills. The credit check ban is an important salvo against inequality. More often than not, poor credit is the result of bad luck and societal disadvantages, and is associated with unemployment, lack of health care, and medical debt . As a result of credit checks, someone who is out of work will find it more difficult to get another job, falling further behind on their bills in a vicious catch-22. The problem is exacerbated in communities of color ,...

What Drives Credit Card Debt?

Americans cumulatively have $854 billion in revolving loan (mostly credit card) debt, according to the Federal Reserve. The amount has actually declined since the Great Recession, as credit card issuers tightened their lending standards, borrowers became more cautious, and strong and effective consumer protection laws went into effect, producing substantial savings for households. Still, $854 billion is no small matter, and its source is worth considering. Why do some people stagger under a mountain of credit card debt, paying high interest rates on their outstanding balances and never seeming to come out ahead, while others rarely if ever carry debt for long, despite pulling out their plastic on a regular basis? That’s the question I set out to answer in a new study , which compares two groups of low- and middle-income households with working age adults. The households are statistically indistinguishable in terms of income, racial and ethnic background, age, marital status and...