25 million low-wage workers in all corners of America to benefit from a higher minimum wage

By Oxfam

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New study charts benefits for the working poor of a $10.10 minimum wage in every Congressional district in the United States.

WASHINGTON, DC – A new study and groundbreaking interactive map released today by international relief and development organization Oxfam America shows for the first time the real benefits in every Congressional district in the country of a $10.10 federal minimum wage.

The data highlights the fact that, on average, about one-in-five of all workers would benefit from a higher minimum wage in Congressional districts held by both Republicans and Democrats. The districts with the highest percentages of workers who would benefit from a higher minimum wage are a diverse mix – at least 29 percent of workers in districts like South Florida, rural South Texas, and Bakersfield, California.

“Congress has waited so long to raise the federal minimum wage that millions of Americans are working full-time and their families are still living in poverty,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America. “More than 25 million hard-working Americans deserve the raise they need to help sustain themselves and their families today. This additional income will lift more than five million Americans out of poverty—and it will go right back into and strengthen local economies.”

According to the study, raising the minimum wage to $10.10 will not only help millions of American workers earn an extra $1,300 a year – enough to buy 10 weeks of groceries for a family of four – but will also:

  • Give nearly 14 million women in America, including 6 million working mothers, a raise;
  • Support 14 million American children in low-wage families;
  • Provide nearly three million working single parents with greater financial security; and
  • Infuse about $32.6 billion into the US economy.

"Making minimum wage can make it even harder to be a mother," said Joanna Cruz, a 30-year-old mother of three living in New Jersey and a member of Witnesses to Hunger, a program of the Center for Hunger-Free Communities at Drexel University. She earns minimum wage and works at a local convenience store. "I want my children to be smart, finish school, and get good jobs. But there are some weeks when my paychecks are so small I have to choose between bus fare to get to work and feeding my kids before I leave. I can't let them starve all week long so I use that money to feed them first. A higher minimum wage would mean I could worry less about getting my kids what they need to survive and be successful."

The study finds benefits of a $10.10 minimum wage increase would reach a somewhat larger proportion of workers in Republican-held districts (19.6 percent) than in Democratic-held districts (18.4 percent). The difference can largely be attributed to the higher percentage of working women (22.7 percent) in Republican-held districts who would benefit from a wage hike compared to working women in Democratic districts (20.0 percent).

Beyond the in-district impact for struggling low-wage workers and their families, raising the minimum wage also makes fiscal sense. Every year, low-wage workers obtain around $436 million in federal assistance. Moreover, investing in employees also has its rewards for businesses.

“Even in highly competitive industries like low-cost retail, leaving employees behind with bad jobs is not a necessity, it is a choice,” said Zeynep Ton, Adjunct Associate Professor at MIT Sloan School of Management, and author of “The Good Jobs Strategy.” "Companies like Costco and QuikTrip, a large convenience store chain, are able to outperform their competitors by choosing to offer good jobs with decent pay and reaping the rewards of a more productive workforce.”

"Raising the minimum wage is good for business and good for our communities,” said Sherry Stewart Deutschmann, CEO & Owner of Letter Logic in Nashville, Tennessee, and a member of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage. “How can you expect your employees to be focused on taking care of your customers when they are struggling to make rent? Raising the minimum wage will increase productivity, reduce turnover and boost business and our economy by putting more money in the paychecks of workers who most need it. It will also reduce the use of food stamps and other taxpayer-financed government assistance programs which unfairly subsidize the profits of companies that don’t pay a living wage."

While Congress is currently at an impasse, raising the minimum wage has not always been a partisan issue. When the Senate voted to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 in 2007, only three senators voted “No,” while 94 senators voted in favor of a raise; in the House, the minimum wage passed by a 315-116 margin, with 82 Republicans voting for it. Recent polls have also found that between two-thirds and three-quarters of Americans support a minimum wage increase, and half of adults say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports a minimum wage increase.

“Catholic social teaching tells us that raising the hourly minimum wage is not just an economic issue - it’s a moral issue,” said Rev. Larry Snyder, President of Catholic Charities USA. “Paying a decent living wage provides more than buying power; it recognizes the worth and humanity of our brothers and sisters who participate in, and contribute to, society through low-skilled and manual work.”

“Raising the minimum wage provides a great opportunity to do something that benefits the whole country: it lifts workers and their families, reduces burdens on taxpayers, and energizes the economy as a whole,” Offenheiser added. “It’s time for us to come together. We urge members of Congress from both parties to consider the needs of hard-working constituents and taxpayers alike, and ultimately give a raise to the people who need it the most.”