Minimum Wage And The Poverty Line

May 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

Have you heard the argument that minimum wage laws don’t solve poverty?  Many of the critics saying that have no experience of poverty and believe a high minimum wage will discourge business.  My state, Washington, has the highest minimum wage in the nation and I’ve seen no data suggesting that it dramatically impacted business strength.  In fact we’re beyond the discussion about minimum wage and onto the debate about paying a “living wage.” But, I’ve got a different take on why minimum wage laws don’t solve poverty.

If you’re lucky enough to find work 40 hr/wk and 51 weeks of the year but live in one these 10 states: Georgia, Mississippi, Lousiana, Montana, South Carolina, Tennessee, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Minnesota, or Alabama then you know that you can’t reach the poverty line working for minumum wage.  Even if you live in Washington you’ll get no farther than 165% of the poverty line working full time at minimum wage. Not in one of the states, not one single state, could you live above the poverty line if you were supporting a partner and child by working for minimum wage.

A  family with 1 child can’t  reach 200% of the poverty level, often the cut off for minor government assistance, even if both parents work fulltime at minumum wage in any state in America. Keep in mind too that they have childcare costs if they’re both working. Is it any wonder why 1 in 3 families is now working poor

In 2010, 4.4 million people worked at or below the federal minimum wage of 7.25/hour. Each state is free to set their own minimum and 11 are below federal standards.

The next time you interact with sales cashiers, a bartender, desk clerks at the resort you visit, or the friendly people at your child’s daycare please remember that they may be taking home poverty wages. You might’ve guessed they didn’t make much money but you probably didn’t realize that those people, who would never tell you this, may be the faces of America’s working poor.

See also: Not Getting By on Minimum Wage, Sept 27 2011

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