Wages: $15/hr: All workers should earn a living wage that allows them to meet their families' basic needs. 

Insights & Analyses

  • The share of full-time workers earning at least $15/hour was lower in 2017 than in 1980. However, some states like Arkansas, Delaware, and Massachusetts saw slight increases. 

  • Overall, just 62 percent of people of color earn $15/hour or above compared to 78 percent of White Americans. Just 68 percent of all US women earn at least $15/hour compared to 75 percent of all men. 

  • There are wide wage inequities by race among people with similar education levels: 52 percent of Whites who did not graduate high school earn at least $15/hour, compared with 34 percent of people of color.

  • 81 percent of Asian or Pacific Islanders born in the US earn at least $15/hour compared to 61 percent of Native Americans and only 45 percent of Latinx immigrants.

Drivers of Inequity

Wages on the lower end of the wage distribution are stagnant, causing a decline in the share of workers who can earn a living wage. This trend is driven by shifts in the U.S. economy, such as corporate outsourcing to countries with lower wages, stock buybacks in lieu of investment in workers, employer consolidation, and declines in union membership. Federal policy choices, such as fiscal austerity and a stagnant minimum wage, also contribute. However, these shifts have disproportionately impacted women and people of color. These populations are overrepresented in low-paying jobs because of historical factors such as racial segregation and policies that banned women and people of color from accessing education and higher paid professions. Ongoing factors, like discriminatory hiring practices, lack of affordable childcare, and disparities in generational wealth, also contribute to wage stagnation.

Strategies

Grow an equitable economy: Policies to ensure living wages for all

Strategy in Action

A living wage is in place for New York City's fast-food workers. In New York City, fast-food workers took part in strikes to protest their low wages, demanding their pay be raised from $7.25 to $15 per hour. Several years later, the Governor of New York State responded to ongoing advocacy by directing the state labor commissioner to study worker conditions and wages. After holding hearings and gathering testimony across the state, the wage board recommended raising the minimum wage for fast-food workers in New York City to $15 per hour, and raising minimum wages for fast-food workers statewide by 2021. Since the increase, fast-food workers have seen a pay increase of 20 to 28 percent while job growth in the sector has remained steady. This minimum-wage increase will also extend to all other employees in New York City beginning in 2020. Read more.

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