In two weeks, the Better Wages Nebraska campaign will reach the signature deadline to put a minimum wage increase on the ballot in November, so that voters can have a voice in ensuring that all working families have a chance at the “good life.” The issue has been widely debated in our state and elsewhere across the country, oftentimes detracting from the realities of the average working family. At Voices for Children, we have always turned to research and evidence to inform our efforts to help Nebraska children and families.
Our state is the proud home of many successful businesses, but a recent study shows that the Nebraska pay gap is one of the worst in the nation, second only to Michigan. This research illustrates that there is exceptional economic potential within our state that continues to leave behind most Nebraskans—the average CEO makes about 421 times more than workers earning the minimum wage. This vast wage gap has severe consequences for the many working families that are struggling to keep up with the skyrocketing costs of health insurance, child care, and education.
Female-headed households are overrepresented among the working poor, and Nebraska is again one of the worst in the nation, second only to West Virginia, for its minimum wage gender gap, with women representing over 70% of minimum wage workers. When the well-being of Nebraska’s children rests on the shoulders of workers who have seen wages stay the same while costs have risen, it is important to consider the long-term implications of keeping our youngest generations at the margins of society.
State and local governments from Hawaii to Maryland have been hard at work to change the wage gap for their hardworking constituents. Although similar efforts stalled in the Nebraska Legislature this session, we still have a chance to keep our state from continuing to rank poorly in socioeconomic indicators by paving the way for all Nebraska families and kids to live happy and healthy lives.