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Raising the Minimum Wage Would Boost the Incomes of Millions of Women and Their Families

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Read the full column (CAP Action)

Later this month, the Senate will vote on whether to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour. The bill, which also includes provisions to index the minimum wage to inflation and increase the tipped minimum wage to 70 percent of the full minimum wage, would help the economy by boosting demand and provide large and immediate benefits to millions of American workers still struggling in the wake of the Great Recession. Among those who would benefit the most are working women and their families, as women currently comprise a disproportionate share of the country’s low-wage earners.

As of 2012, more than 64 percent of Americans earning at or below the minimum wage were women, according to our analysis of Current Population Survey data. Nearly 2.3 million women earned $7.25 per hour or less last year, compared to more than 1.2 million men. This gender imbalance is particularly prominent among tipped workers, who are not covered by the standard minimum wage and have been guaranteed only $2.13 per hour since Congress last increased the tipped minimum wage in 1991. According to a report from Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, 66 percent of American restaurant workers earning the tipped minimum wage were women as of 2010.

As women have become the breadwinners or co-breadwinners in nearly two-thirds of American families, these low wages have increasingly hindered many families’ ability to get ahead. A mother working 40 hours per week and earning the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour only makes about $15,080 per year, or $4,450 below the federal poverty line for a family of three. If that mother were earning $10.10 per hour instead, she could bring home roughly $21,000 per year—an increase in annual earnings of more than $5,900. These additional earnings would not only be critical to many families’ financial well-being, but would also provide a significant boost to the economy as whole by stimulating much-needed spending on goods and services.

Read the full column (CAP Action)

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