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Profile of Minimum Wage Workers Isn’t What You Think

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Credit: Joe Kekeris
Credit: Joe Kekeris

Opponents of increasing the nation’s minimum wage always fall back on the argument that it doesn’t need to be raised because it’s mostly teenagers working part-time for extra pocket money who are getting that hourly figure (which right now is $7.25).

A new study shows that stereotype isn’t true. In fact, the majority of minimum wage workers have completed some college, live in families making less than $40,000 a year and so are contributing to the family income, and are working full-time.

Economic Policy Institute (EPI) economist Doug Hall blows up the myths behind the minimum wage at EPI’s Working Economics blog, where he also shows that the vast majority of minimum wage earners are white and only 15 percent are part-time workers.

Hall argues that now is the ideal time for Congress to raise the minimum wage.

As my colleague David Cooper wrote in April, increasing the federal minimum wage to $9.80 by July 1, 2014, would benefit more than 28 million workers and increase national GDP by over $25 million, in the process creating more than 100,000 jobs. Given the lackluster recovery that continues to cast a pall over the nation, this positive step should be embraced by all those who care about the well-being of working families.

Minimum-Wage-Workers-Aren-t-Part-Time-TeensHall writes that Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin (D) introduced the Rebuild America Act, a bill that contains important provisions to strengthen the economy and improve the well-being of working Americans.

Among the many worthy elements of this bill is a proposal to increase the federal minimum wage to $9.80 by July 1, 2014.

Next week marks the third year since the federal minimum wage was increased. But it’s a good bet for many members of Congress, the only way they would raise the minimum wage is if they actually had to live on $7.25 an hour.

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) just released a new report that also provides unexpected facts about minimum wage workers, including the fact that the majority (66 percent) of low-wage workers are not employed by small businesses, but rather by large corporations with more than 100 employees. Read the report summary here.

This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO on July 20, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Tula Connell got her first union card while she worked her way through college as a banquet bartender for the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee they were represented by a hotel and restaurant local union (the names of the national unions were different then than they are now). With a background in journalism (covering bull roping in Texas and school boards in Virginia) she started working in the labor movement in 1991. Beginning as a writer for SEIU (and OPEIU member), she now blogs under the title of AFL-CIO managing editor.


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