In the eight years since the federal minimum wage was last raised, the buying power of a minimum-wage paycheck has fallen 10 percent due to inflation—and this erosion is not even half of the decline in the value that has taken place since the late 1960s. Despite a much richer economy and a more educated, more productive workforce, minimum wage workers today are paid roughly 25 percent less than their counterparts almost 50 years ago.
In Raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2024 would give 41 million working people a raise, EPI Senior Analyst David Cooper looks at the impact of the Raise the Wage Act of 2017, which would gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2024, link it to changes in the median wage thereafter, and gradually eliminate the separate, lower minimum wage for tipped workers.
“Targeting $15 by 2024 is a bold proposal, but it is absolutely necessary—otherwise the minimum wage will never provide a decent wage and overcome the many decades where it rose modestly or not at all.” said EPI President Lawrence Mishel. “Raising the minimum wage to $15 will directly help nearly a third of the workforce, promote robust wage growth, and boost the economy.”
The proposal would directly lift the wages of 22.5 million workers. On average, these low-wage workers would receive a $3.10 increase in their hourly wage, in today’s dollars. For a directly affected worker who works all year, this equals a $5,100 increase in annual wage income, a raise of 31.3 percent. Meanwhile, another 19.0 million workers earning more than $15 would also see their wages increase from a spillover impact as employers adjusted their pay scales to the increase. A total of 41.5 million workers would benefit from this proposal, 29.2 percent of the wage and salary workforce.
“If we raised it to $15 by 2024, for the first time ever, the minimum wage would no longer be a poverty wage,” said Cooper. “Tens of millions of workers, mostly adults who provide more than sixty percent of their family’s income, would benefit from going to $15. This would, in turn, benefit their communities.”
90 percent of workers who would get a raise if the minimum wage were increased to $15 in 2014 are age 20 or older. The average worker who would be affected is 36 years old, and 70 percent are 25 years old or older. The majority of workers work full time, and more than a quarter have children.
Workers of color and women would disproportionately benefit from raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2024, as 40 percent of black workers and one-third of Hispanic workers would receive a raise. A majority of the workers who would be affected are women (55.6 percent). More than 19 million children—nearly a quarter of all children in the United States—would benefit from an increase in their parents’ pay.