Center for American Progress

Women Are the Biggest Losers from Failure to Raise Minimum Wage

Women Are the Biggest Losers from Failure to Raise Minimum Wage

Earning the Federal Minimum Wage Keeps Women, Especially Those of Color, Poor

Boosting the minimum wage will be a particular boon to women and people of color, who make up a disproportionate share of minimum wage earners, argue David Madland and Nick Bunker.

Read the full column (CAP Action)

The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is far too low. A full-time worker earning the minimum wage makes just $15,080 per year, below the poverty line for a family of three. From 1968 to 2010, incomes for the top 1 percent of earners increased by 110 percent, but the inflation-adjusted value of the minimum wage has fallen by 31 percent. If the federal minimum wage had kept pace with the rising cost of living over the past 40 years, it would be $10.52 per hour today.

Women are disproportionately harmed by a low minimum wage because women—and especially women of color—are much more likely hold low-wage jobs than men. The typical woman earns 77 cents for every dollar the typical man does, and the fact that women are more likely to be minimum-wage earners than men contributes to that disparity. This gap is especially distressing now that two-thirds of mothers are either the breadwinners or co-breadwinners for their families.

In 2011 more than 62 percent of minimum-wage workers were women compared to just 38 percent of male minimum-wage workers. Slightly more than 2.5 million women earn the minimum wage or less, while approximately 1.5 million men do. This imbalance is even more drastic once you consider that women were just 46.9 percent of all employed workers in 2011.

Female workers earning the minimum wage are also disproportionately workers of color. African American women were 15.8 percent of female workers making the minimum wage in 2011 compared to 12.3 percent of all employed workers. Similarly, Hispanic women were 16.5 percent of female minimum wage earners but were only 12.5 percent of employed workers.

Read the full column (CAP Action)

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David Madland

Senior Fellow; Senior Adviser, American Worker Project

Nick Bunker

Research Associate