Our national survey of business owners served by microenterprise programs gives us a broad numeric picture of microenterprise jobs. In-depth interviews with 104 microenterprise workers help us get a more detailed picture of what those jobs are like. Is a median wage of $12.50 an hour enough? Does having a stable or flexible schedule provide sufficient balance to the lack of benefits? What do workers think about their opportunities for growth, their working environment, and other elements that make a job good? Are investments into microenterprise programs to support these jobs a good investment of philanthropic and public money? Take a look at the numbers…

Close Case Study Open Case study Hover Open Case study A BROADER LOOK

Interviews conducted in 2013  with 1,103 business owners served by microenterprise programs show:

51% of microenterprises had paid workers, a mean of 1.8 paid workers per business.

$12 median and $18.50 mean hourly wage for paid workers.

54% made wages above the low-wage threshold.

63% paid wages greater than President Obama’s proposed minimum wage increase.

53% of paid workers worked part time, or fewer than 35 hours a week.

Hourly Wages

54% Above low wage threshold ($11.73)
43% Minimum wage to low wage threshold
03% Below minimum wage ($7.25)

Close Case Study Open Case study Hover Open Case study What Workers said

Highlights from 104 in-depth interviews:

63% made wages at or above President Obama’s proposed increase to the minimum wage.

Hourly Wages

$12.50 Median
$13.46 Mean
$3.38* Min
$50.00 Max

    * base wage for restaurant worker.

Annual Job Compensation

$18,808 Median
$22,321 Mean
   $1,500 Min
$55,000 Max

48% of the workers reported hourly wages that exceeded the $11.73 low-wage threshold.

44% of workers said that they were completely satisfied with their wages.

"Low-Wage" Threshold Hourly Wage*

48% Above threshold
52% Below threshold

* Hourly wages were converted to 2010 dollars before being compared to the 2010 low-wage threshold of $11.73.

These jobs are important to economic security. 58% of workers noted that their salaries contributed more than 50% of total household income.

Contribution of Job
to Household Income

29% 00%-25%
13% 26%-50%
18% 51%-75%
40% 76%-100%

Like many lower-wage workers, relatively few of those interviewed received benefits such as paid vacation, sick leave and health insurance. However, all of the workers in this study noted that they had the flexibility to take off days for personal reasons or due to illness, without fear of losing their jobs.

Time Off?

66% No
34% Yes


87.5% No
12.5% Yes

formal benefits

95% No
05% Yes

  • Many workers explicitly stated a willingness to accept the level of wages and benefits in return for other attributes of the job they found important.
  • 80% of workers say they have stable schedules, and 87% say their schedules are flexible.
  • 1/3 of workers cite their work environment and co-workers as the best part of their job.
  • 67% see definite opportunities for growth at the microenterprise.
  • 67% of workers 18-45 years old said they were interested or somewhat interested in starting their own business.
  • 29% work more than one job.
  • 94% understood how their job directly contributed to the success of the business.
Close Case Study Open Case study Hover Open Case study Costs and Benefits

The cost-benefit ratio in microenterprise development is positive—$5 in benefits for every $1 in costs. We calculate cost benefit figures for microenterprise programs based on: the change in business owner draw and wages paid to workers, compared to microenterprise program expenses.

  • Our analysis of 1,230 businesses revealed these returns:
  • 1.8 mean jobs per business, excluding the owner
  • 107% increase in net new jobs for paid workers from intake to survey
  • $2,081 to $2,163 the cost of supporting a job for owners and workers

“There is a

1-5 Cost-Benefit Ratio

for microenterprise development.”