Every day, I open 50 or so tabs, find the day’s most fascinating news, and edit the internet down to a selection of bite-sized, pithy takes that I like to refer to as a modern day column. In 2020 parlance, I’m what you’d call an inessential worker. During our peak pandemic year, we learned just how essential some of our workers are, and for the first time in a long time, we started paying them as such. “That surreal period underscored a truth that activists had been pointing to for years but that hadn’t made its way into mainstream politics: Many of the workers we couldn’t live without are paid the least for their so-called essential labor. Company hazard pay didn’t last long, but a few dozen cities and counties in California extended the practice for a few months this year in a kind of natural experiment: Would a boost in salary for lower-wage workers lead to tangible benefits for them and their communities without bankrupting their employers?” Alexander Nieves in Politico: Hazard pay changed the lives of California grocery store employees during the pandemic and may have begun a long-term shift for lower-wage workers.

+ Higher wages for essential workers wasn’t the only econ experiment during the pandemic. NYT (gift article for ND readers): Pandemic Aid Programs Spur a Record Drop in Poverty. “The number of poor Americans is expected to fall by nearly 20 million from 2018 levels, a decline of almost 45 percent. The country has never cut poverty so much in such a short period of time, and the development is especially notable since it defies economic headwinds — the economy has nearly seven million fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic.”