Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, as proposed in the Fair Minimum Wage Act, would increase the total combined wages of blacks, Hispanics, and Asians by $16.1 billion, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress.
The report notes that if the Fair Minimum Wage Act were passed, 6 million workers would be lifted out of poverty – and 60 percent of them would be people of color. The reason is simple: despite making up only 32 percent of the total workforce, minorities represented 42 percent of minimum-wage workers in 2013.
As illustrated in the chart below, Hispanics would benefit the most from a wage hike, with an $8.5 billion total wage increase. Blacks closely follow, at $5.2 billion. Asians would receive a $2.4 billion increase.
In addition to lifting millions of workers out of poverty, a minimum-wage hike would also reduce government spending, because fewer people would need to rely on safety-net programs like the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). In total, the Center for American Progress’ report attributes $46 million in savings over 10 years if the minimum wage were increased.
Many lawmakers on the right explain their opposition to a minimum-wage increase by arguing that it would hurt small businesses unable to afford the higher costs, and would result in massive layoffs.
However, as 602 economists pointed out in an open letter to President Obama and congressional leaders, past increases in the federal minimum wage had “little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers, even during times of weakness in the labor market.”
In fact, the economists – seven of whom are Nobel laureates – argue that raising the minimum wage could have a “small stimulative effect on the economy as low-wage workers spend their additional earnings, raising demand and job growth, and providing some help on the jobs front.”
Ultimately, raising the wage is both good policy and good politics. When, as the Center for American Progress reports, full-time minimum-wage earners make only $15,080 — $4,000 below the federal poverty line – a wage hike means helping those who need it most. And given Republicans’ desperate need to fix their image among minorities, raising the wage would also be a great political move for the GOP.
Photo: Pbarcas via Flickr
Chart via Center For American Progress