Today, EPI Economist Ben Zipperer testified before the House Education and Labor Committee in support of the Raise the Wage Act of 2019, which would gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour beginning in 2024.
In his testimony, Zipperer argued that the Raise the Wage Act is an important corrective to years of allowing the value of the minimum wage to erode, and will help ensure that low-wage workers share in the benefits of economic growth. By 2024, he argued, even a single adult with no children will need to be earning more than $15 per hour in order to achieve a modest but adequate standard of living in every part of the United States.
“Minimum wages are a crucial tool for making sure workers are paid adequately and fairly. For too long Congressional inaction has denied American workers significant improvements in their standard of living,” said Zipperer. “By failing to enact bold increases in the minimum wage, we have deprived workers of wages they could be earning without any cost to them in terms of reduced employment.”
The Raise the Wage Act would lift the pay of nearly 40 million workers, or 27 percent of the eligible workforce. The workers who would get a raise are overwhelmingly adult workers, most of whom work full time in regular jobs, often to support a family.
Zipperer pointed out that the bulk of recent economic research on the minimum wage, as well as the best scholarship, shows that prior increases have meaningfully raised the pay of the low-wage workforce with little-to-no negative consequences. In new research, Zipperer and co-authors Doruk Cengiz, Arindrajit Dube, and Attila Lindner, studied every major state-level minimum wage increase between 1979 and 2016 and found they significantly raised wages without reducing the employment of low-wage workers. Notably, they found the same positive outcomes for even the highest minimum wage increases.