Fact of the Week: The Average Worker Who Would Benefit from a Minimum Wage Increase Isn’t Who You Might Think
The average age of workers who benefit from raising the minimum wage to $10.10 is 35 years old. More than a third of workers affected are at least 40.
While many people still think of the average minimum wage worker as the teenager earning some extra spending cash, the reality is very different. Research from the Economic Policy Institute shows that of workers who would be affected by the proposed $10.10 increase in the minimum wage, 55% work full time, 28% have children, and 44% have at least some college experience. And yet we also know that a full-time worker making the federal minimum wage earns just $15,080 a year – more than $4,000 below the federal poverty line for a family of three.
Thursday, July 24 marks the five year anniversary of the last time the federal minimum wage was increased, which is why advocates across the country – including us here at CHN – are promoting the #LiveTheWage Challenge. From July 24-30, advocates, Members of Congress, and others will highlight the need to raise the minimum wage by living on a minimum wage budget – just $77 for the week ($11 a day) to spend on food, transportation, and recreational spending. That’s the estimated $290 per week a full-time minimum wage worker earns, less average housing costs and taxes.
Even realizing that this challenge is just small a glimpse into the lives on those living on minimum wage – after all, you’re not asked to factor in costs like health care or a car or loan payment, and the average housing cost is very low for most cities – the challenge won’t be easy, and it’s not supposed to be. After all, surviving on minimum wage isn’t easy.
#LiveTheWage is designed to bring awareness to the struggles faced by too many Americans currently scrimping by on the minimum wage, and to spur Congress to act to raise the wage. There is a glimmer of hope – according to CQ, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) said the Senate will vote on the minimum wage increase in September. But there’s no guarantee the fate of the vote will be any different than it was when a similar vote in April failed along party lines (60 votes were needed to move forward). And given the backlog in Congress, there’s no guarantee a vote will take place at all. But the millions of Americans who would benefit from a minimum wage increase can’t afford to wait.