Should the Minimum Wage Be Raised?
by Paul Wolf - posted 2:40 am, December 10, 2014
Who Works Minimum Wage Jobs?
A recent New York Times article provides some interesting information as to the demographics of minimum wage workers.
Minimum-wage workers are older than they used to be. Their average age is 35, and 88 percent are at least 20 years old. Half are older than 30, and about a third are at least 40.
In 1979, 27 percent of low-wage workers (those making $10.10 per hour or less in today’s dollars) were teenagers, compared with 12 percent in 2013.
They’re split fairly evenly between full-timers and part-timers. Most—54 percent—work full-time schedules (at least 35 hours per week), and another 32 percent work at least half time (20-34 hours per week).
Many have kids. About one-quarter (27 percent) of these low-wage workers are parents, compared with 34 percent of all workers. In all, 19 percent of children in the United States have a parent who would benefit from a minimum wage increase.
Most are women. Women make up 48 percent of the work force yet 55 percent of the would-be beneficiaries of the increase in the minimum wage.
Their earnings are a big part of their family budgets. The average worker in this group brings home half of his or her household’s earnings; 19 percent of those who would get the raise are sole earners. Parents who would benefit from the increase bring home an even larger share of their families’ earnings: 60 percent.
Today, at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, working 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year provides an annual income of only $15,080, which is below the federal poverty line for families of two or more. According to the Social Security Administration, 40 percent of all workers make less than $20,000 a year in America today.
Poverty Increasing In America
A US Census Bureau report released in September 2013, entitled “Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2012” points out the crisis occurring in America today. Poverty is at a near-generation high of 15 percent, close to the high point since the 1965 War on Poverty. According to Census report, 46.5 million Americans, including 9.5 million families, live in poverty. Some 20.4 million people live on an income less than 50 percent of the official poverty line, 7.1 million of these being children under 18.
In another report the Economic Policy Institute found that if the minimum wage were raised from its current level of $7.25 per hour to $10.10, as proposed by the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2014, more than 1.7 million Americans would no longer have to rely on public assistance programs. This would produce $7.6 billion per year or more in savings for the federal government, according to the study.
Should the minimum wage be raised to address poverty and growing economic inequality in America? Would raising the minimum wage do more harm than good?