Min Wage Isn’t Family Wage
Contrary to Democrat Claims, Studies Show Families Rarely Subsist on Minimum Wage
You’re going to hear plenty of this after yesterday’s veto of the Democrats’ insane minimum wage increase, Save Jerseyans.
But you and I both know this has absolutely NOTHING to do with the plight of working families. It’s a cynical (and economically reckless) attempt to drive up Democrat base turnout in a year when Chris Christie lacks an enthusiasm-generating Democrat opponent. Republicans used the same tactic in 2004 by posting marriage ballot questions in key states. Nothing new here. They’re not expecting to beat Chris Christie with it; Dem leaders are simply hoping to get a minimum wage question on the November 2013 ballot and prevent a down-ticket disaster.
Worse still, the “working family” talking point is completely inaccurate.
Take the example of today’s Star-Ledger editorial which was light on facts and heavy on emotion, lamenting the “pattern” of Chris Christie’s assault on “low-wage families.”
This Bradley Schiller column from The Wall Street Journal (a newspaper which Americans still actually read, unlike the Ledger) from Back in October 2011 is extremely instructive. The key point? Whole families subsisting on the minimum wage is not a common occurrence in the United States. Reputable nonpartisan studies have found that 70% of adults working for the minimum wage actually do so for less than two years, and virtually every one of these workers eventually obtains a higher-paying job…
And who are these folks?
The family status of these adults is critical to the debate about “good jobs for everyone.” In 1998, 30% of adult minimum-wage workers in the survey were single parents (mostly female) and another 23% were married with children still at home. These are the two demographic groups that are of greatest concern in the debate over income dependence. The rest of the adult minimum-wage workers were married without kids at home (22%) or single (25%).
Single parents are clearly the most vulnerable. Every year the Census counts millions of them, many working at minimum-wage jobs. But it is important to recognize that these are not the same single parents every year. Three out of four of the single parents working for the minimum wage in 1998 were no longer single parents in 2006. They moved in and out of two-parent households frequently.
If we focus on two-parent families in which one parent holds a minimum-wage job, the obvious question is whether the spouse also works. The survey data reveal that the answer is overwhelmingly “yes”: Nine out of 10 married-with-children minimum-wage workers have a working spouse. Even more revealing is how much income that spouse earns: 40% of those spouses earn more than $40,000 a year. Another 27% report spousal earnings of $20,000-$40,000.
But wait! I thought these households subsisted below the poverty line? MSNBC told me so!
None of these households is in poverty. Nor is their economic well-being dependent on the minimum wage. In only 15% of these households are the earnings of both the minimum-wage worker and the spouse less than $10,000 apiece. (The federal poverty line for families with two children averaged around $17,000 during this period.) The minimum wage accounts for less than 20% of total family income in more than 75% of the families in which one spouse works for minimum wage.
To review: most of what you’ve heard about the minimum wage – and those who rely on the minimum wage – is a big fat LIE. At a minimum, Save Jerseyans! And we know from our many discussions here at Save Jersey that the minimum wage simply doesn’t succeed in offering the economic “hand up” that liberals love to reference.
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