Fast food strikes and minimum wage hikes. How much does it matter for poverty?
Talk of raising the minimum wage hasn't exactly reached a fever pitch, but there is some recent momentum around returning to the issue whether the minimum wage is enough (if segments on the Daily Show are evidence of momentum).
So the question is, enough for what? Enough to lift minimum wage earners out of poverty?
Obama's proposal (made during the State of the Union and which he's started pushing again but which doesn't seem to be going anywhere) is to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour. Fast food strikes this past week in Detroit and other places around the country had workers demanding $15.
An analysis by the Center for Economic and Policy Research found that even with a $9 minimum wage, a family of four with two full-time minimum wage earners would still be living 10% below the poverty line.
And minimum wage earners do have families. The average age of somebody earning minimum wage is 28. More minimum wage earners are women. In fact, the job gains being made by women post-recession are in low-wage work (all of these stats and more are at the National Women's Law Center).
Through our reporting, we hear all the time how hard it is to support a family on low-wage work. We hear from mothers and fathers who aren't really earning enough for their basic needs, but earning too much to access the social safety net. These stories, and the demographics of who is filling those minimum wage jobs, make discussions and more analysis about the minimum wage worth having and doing.