More than 60 million people in working U.S. households rely on the income of a low-wage worker, 25 million of whom would benefit from a $10.10 an hour federal minimum wage, according to a new study. Progress Illinois takes a closer look at the report's findings and who would be impacted by such a wage increase in Illinois.
More than 60 million people in working U.S. households rely on the income of a low-wage worker, 25 million of whom would benefit from a $10.10 an hour federal minimum wage, according to a new studyby Oxfam America and the Economic Policy Institute.
The last time legislation was approved to raise the federal minimum wage, which currently stands at $7.25 an hour, was in 2007. If it were lifted to $10.10 an hour as proposed, 25 million U.S. workers -- including more than 1 million in Illinois -- would see their pay go up, and between five million to six million people would be lifted out of poverty, the organizations found. A total of 60.6 million people (low-wage workers plus their household members) would benefit from a wage bump, the study showed.
"The purchasing power of the minimum wage has been eroding for decades," said David Cooper, economic analyst at the Economic Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank. "Millions of workers and their families are struggling to make ends meet because we've let the minimum wage stagnate for too long. There's no need for it. We can boost family incomes for a quarter of the people in working families nationwide if Congress acts."
For the study's purposes, a low-wage worker is defined as someone making $11.50 an hour or less. Researchers note that those earning a little more than $10.10 an hour are likely to see their pay tick up, "as employers adjust wages to preserve internal pay ladders."
The groups' analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data also showed that some 8.9 million low-wage workers are parents of children. And more than 15 million children live in families supported by low-wage workers, who on average account for 56 percent of their household's income.
"The new evidence further debunks a common stereotype of the typical low-wage worker: a teenager with no skills, working an entry-level job before moving up, likely living at home with parents," the report reads. "In fact, the real picture of most low-wage workers is drastically different. They are often the primary breadwinners in their families, with an average age of 35; they live in households with an average of three family members (counting the worker), who all depend on that low-wage income; and they are often stuck in these jobs, as they can't afford to invest in the means to move up the ladder."
In Illinois, the base hourly wage is currently $8.25, $1 more than the federal level. Springfield lawmakers are currently considering a state minimum wage increase after an advisory ballot referendum for a $10 minimum wage passed overwhelmingly in November. In Chicago, an ordinance to lift the city's minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2019 was approved by aldermen earlier this month.
More than 18 percent of Illinois workers, or over 1 million people, would likely be affected by a $10.10 hourly wage, including 356,000 parents of children, according to the report. Low-wage Illinois workers who would be impacted have 2.6 million family members in their households, including 667,000 children. In Illinois, the average share of family income earned by a low-wage worker is 53 percent.
Of the 50 U.S. states, Arkansas has the highest percentage of low-wage workers who would be affected by the wage bump, 25.2 percent, while Alaska has the lowest percentage, 13.2 percent.
The study also breaks down the percentage of workers at the congressional district level, determining who would see their pay go up if the federal minimum wage were increased to $10.10 an hour.
In northwestern Illinois' 17th congressional district, 23 percent of workers, or 67,000 people, would be impacted by the wage increase. The 12th and 15th congressional districts in southern Illinois would likely see 58,000 and 63,000 workers affected by the higher wage, respectively. That works out to be 21.3 percent workers in the 12th and 22.3 percent of workers in the 15th. Nearly 18 percent of workers, or 48,000 people, in the 2nd congressional district, which encompasses many south Chicago suburbs, would see a pay bump. Click through to see how other Illinois congressional districts stacked up.
"As a nation that values families, we should be helping build pathways of opportunity," said Raymond Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America, a global organization working on solutions to poverty, hunger and injustice ."Mothers and fathers willing to work hard in our country should be able to earn enough money to sustain their families and put food on the table for their children. It's time to raise the federal minimum wage to lift millions of working families out of poverty."
Opponents of raising the minimum wage argue that it could lead to a loss of jobs and higher prices for consumers.
The report counters that most "research has found no statistically significant effect on employment--including a March 2014 report by Goldman Sachs."
"Studies of 91 state minimum wage increases since 1987 have actually found that the unemployment rate was more likely to decline than increase," the report adds. "Effects on prices are also minimal, as one study found that household food costs would rise by no more than a dime a day."