Chart of the Week: Maine’s New Minimum Wage Law is a Win for Equity

11 Nov 2016 | Abigail Langston
Chart of the Week: Maine’s New Minimum Wage Law is a Win for Equity

To add equity data to the national dialogue about growth and prosperity, every week the National Equity Atlas team posts a new chart from the Equity Atlas related to current events and issues.

Earlier this week, voters in various cities, counties, and four states approved minimum-wage increases that have the potential to raise incomes for millions of working Americans.  Washington state will raise its minimum hourly wage to $13.50 by 2020, while Arizona, Colorado, and Maine will raise their respective state minimums to $12.00 in the same time frame. These are important victories for the equity movement and the #FightFor15.

Maine’s plan is especially encouraging; not only will it boost the current minimum of $7.50/hour by 60 percent over the next few years, it will tie the minimum wage to inflation after 2020 and eliminate the sub-minimum “tipped wage” by 2024. No other state east of the Mississippi has moved to end the so-called tip credit that allows employers to pay tipped workers less than minimum wage.

Atlas data underscore how inequitable income growth contributes to rising inequality and creates a drag on the overall economy of a region and the nation as a whole. As this week’s chart illustrates, real income for full-time workers at the 10th percentile in Maine has remained virtually unchanged for many decades – growing just 1.4 percent since 1980. For workers at the 90th percentile, on the other hand, incomes have grown by more than 21 percent. 

Increasing the income of low-wage workers is essential to build an economy that works for all

Equitable growth would mean rising wages for all workers, but with the largest gains going to those at the bottom of the income distribution. In Seattle, the first major city to pioneer a $15 minimum wage, the pay of workers covered by the new law grew by 12 percent during the first-stage of the phase-in increase — compared to just 5 percent for workers in similar, neighboring places — and the employment stability of low-wage workers increased, as well.

To see how earned income growth for full-time wage and salaried workers varies across the income distribution for your state, region, or city, visit the National Equity Atlas, download the chart for your community, and post to social media using #equitydata.