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Women and People of Color to Make Greatest Gains from Proposed Federal Minimum Wage Increase

By Oxfam

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New interactive map reveals $15 minimum wage would benefit nearly 40 million workers, and help address deep gender and race pay inequities

Ahead of Thursday’s House committee meeting on The Raise the Wage Act, anti-poverty organization Oxfam America has released a new interactive map that illustrates the extensive impact of raising the federal minimum wage to $15 for low-wage workers across the US, especially for women and people of color.

Oxfam’s interactive map, Ten Years without a Raise, is based on research from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and shows that raising the wage from $7.25 to $15 by 2024 would lift wages for 27 percent of America’s workforce, or nearly 40 million people and their families. Most of these workers are adults, working full time, including 23 million women and their families who would benefit.

The current federal minimum wage has not increased since 2009, remaining at $7.25 an hour, $290 a week and $15,080 a year. While the cost of food, housing, transportation and medical care have all increased, the minimum wage has steadily lost value over the years since Congress last voted to increase it in 2007.

“Hard working people have not received a raise in ten years, yet the cost of living has continued to climb each year, and families are falling behind every day,” says Mary Babic, US Domestic Program Manager for Oxfam America. “The economy is booming, and some at the top are enjoying enormous gains, and yet millions of families are working hard and losing ground. No matter how hard and long they work, they can’t keep up with inflation.”

According to the data, a federal minimum wage increase would substantially benefit minorities, especially women of color who take on a disproportionate number of low wage jobs. While 27 percent of the total workforce in the US would benefit from the raise and 18 percent of white men would benefit, the map and data reveal that 39 percent of Black and Latina women would benefit (8.7 million people); 38 percent of African American workers would benefit (7 million people); 33 percent of Latino workers would benefit (9.6 million people); 32 percent of women workers would benefit (23 million people).

“In some states, the share of Black and Hispanic women who would benefit are truly shocking—going as high as 68 percent,” says Joi Owens, Oxfam America’s Senior Gulf Coast Advisor. “Raising the wage is one small but significant step toward addressing some of these unsettling and longstanding inequities in the labor market.”

In 30 states, over 50 percent of all Black and Hispanic working women would benefit from the raise in the minimum wage. Some of these states include Iowa, Utah, Idaho, Nebraska, Wyoming and Mississippi. The historical division of the economy into gender-based jobs has had long-lasting effects on women at work. “Women’s work” jobs tend to pay lower wages than “men’s work” jobs, even if the occupations require more training or education.

While the pay increase could lift millions out of poverty, it also has the potential to strengthen the economy, and save taxpayers billions of dollars.

"When the minimum wage is too little to live on, it hurts businesses as well as workers,” said Holly Sklar, CEO of Business for a Fair Minimum Wage. “It weakens the consumer spending that businesses depend on to thrive, undermines our economy, and strains the public safety net. It’s time to raise the federal floor and assure a decent minimum wage wherever people live and do business.”

While the map illustrates that millions across the country would benefit, some states particularly in the South, have especially high concentrations of low-wage workers. In Mississippi, 42 percent of workers would benefit; in Nevada, 40%; in New Mexico and Arkansas, 39%; in Alabama and Louisiana, 37%.

The Raise the Wage Act of 2019, introduced in the House and the Senate, would:

  • Raise the federal minimum wage to $8.55 this year and increase it over the next five years until it reaches $15 an hour in 2024;
  • After 2024, adjust the minimum wage each year to keep pace with growth in the typical worker’s wages;
  • Phase out the outdated subminimum wage for tipped workers, which has been frozen at a meager $2.13 since 1991;
  • Sunset the much-criticized ability of employers to pay workers with disabilities a subminimum wage; and,
  • Phase out the subminimum wage for workers under the age of 20.

“There’s no excuse for not raising the wage at a time when unemployment is low and productivity is high,” says Babic. “Raising the federal minimum wage would offer an immediate and powerful boost to millions of workers, their families, and the economy in general.”

 

/ENDS

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