Few Rewards

Today, more people than ever are working in jobs that pay too little and offer too few benefits: nearly half the workforce earns under $15 an hour. This isn’t right, or inevitable. We should value and reward hard work.

In partnership with

An Agenda for Giving America’s Working Poor a Raise:

  • Raise the federal minimum wage.
  • Provide access to earned sick leave.
  • Protect overtime pay for millions of workers.
  • Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

Find out more in our report.

Concentrations of low-wage workers1

The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 an hour for seven years. This is a poverty wage, and has an effect on wages for millions of jobs. Overall, 58.3 million workers (43.7 percent) earn under $15 an hour; 41.7 million (31.3 percent) earn under $12 an hour.

Workers earning under

State scorecards

Detailed information on low wage work, benefits and policy.
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Concentrations of low-wage workers by gender

Women represent less than half the workforce, but well over half of those earning under $15 an hour. Overall, 48.5 percent of working women (31.4 million) earn under $15 an hour; 35.2 percent (25.8 million) earn under $12 an hour.

Workers earning under

Concentrations of low-wage workers by race/ethnicity2

While the majority of low-wage workers are white, black and Hispanic workers are far more likely to be in low-wage jobs. Overall, more than half (53 percent, 8.2 million) of black workers and 60 percent (13.1 million) of Hispanic workers earn under $15 an hour. For black and Hispanic women, the numbers are even more dramatic.

Workers earning under

Concentrations of private sector workers without paid sick leave4

Overall, nearly half (45 percent, 47.8 million) of private sector workers in the US lack a single day of paid sick leave; 80.6 percent of low-wage workers lack access.

Concentrations of salaried workers benefiting from expansion of overtime pay5

In May 2016, the overtime pay rule was updated to extend coverage to salaried workers earning under $47,476 a year.Overall, 12.5 million workers will benefit from this change.

Percent of salaried workers who benefit from overtime

Concentrations of households covered by the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)6

The EITC, a tax credit to help low-income working households, uses a formula which considers income and number of dependent children. A proposed change would expand coverage to workers without children and young adults filing taxes; it could have a positive impact on 13.5 million tax filers.

Percent of people who benefit from EITC

Concentrations of people in working families in and near poverty3

About 9.1 percent of people in working families lives in poverty and 26.3 percent lives in or near poverty. A fulltime worker supporting a family of two on the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 lives well below the federal poverty line.

  1. This project identifies and illustrates numbers and percentages of US workers age 16 and older who are employed, but not self-employed, and for whom we can impute an hourly wage, who are paid low wages. Specifically, it illustrates those earning under a range of hourly wages ($10, $11, $12, $13, $14 and $15) in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The Economic Policy Institute did original research using 2014 American Community Survey (ACS) microdata made available by the University of Minnesota.
 Note that the number of workers earning under the specified wage value reported in these maps will be larger than the number of workers who would benefit from a minimum wage increase to the same value. This is because a significant number of workers earn under the minimum wage (roughly 12 million). These workers are unlikely to be affected immediately by a change in the level of the minimum wage without additional changes in the coverage of the law and stronger protections against wage theft.
  2. Due to inadequate sample size in the ACS microdata, this report is unable to report percentages for some demographics and wage thresholds (e.g., black workers in Wyoming). Those states with unknown data are represented on the map by the color gray.
  3. The numbers are based on thresholds from the US Department of Health and Human Services 2016 Poverty Guidelines; “near poverty” is defined as 200% of the federal poverty guidelines.
  4. This data excludes states that have passed laws to require employers to provide paid sick days, and states with major municipalities requiring employers to do so.
  5. This includes EPI data on the impact of the finalized overtime rules.
  6. This contains data on usage of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) from the Internal Revenue Service, as well as data on the impact of proposed expansion of the EITC from the Executive office of the President and US Treasury Department. This proposal is similar to proposal by Speaker of the House, Representative Paul Ryan. Another similar proposal, introduced by Senator Sherrod Brown (OH) would expand the EITC even further. For additional details, please visit the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

Data compiled and analyzed by Oxfam America and the Economic Policy Institute. Paid sick leave data provided by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Information on members of Congress and congressional districts comes from Sunlight Foundation

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