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Raising the Wage: Children and the Wage Gap

CC by 2.0 via flickr user More Good Foundation

Last week, we released findings from our new poll showing that the majority of Nebraskans support increasing the state minimum wage. The poll also found that women overwhelmingly support an increase by a 3:1 ratio—but women in Nebraska aren’t alone. National polling shows that women from both ends of the political spectrum are similarly supportive of increasing the minimum wage. Statistics on labor and wages in the country suggest that we can attribute this trend to the fact that minimum wage disproportionately affects women.

Nationally, women represent approximately two-thirds of minimum wage workers and tipped workers, and an even stronger disparity exists for women of color. As shown in our new Family Bottom Line report, however, the current minimum wage has not kept up with the needs of many working families. Although only 22% of all working families are headed by females, nearly 40% of low-income working families are headed by females. The implications of working mothers being overrepresented among the working poor are vast: minimum wage workers often lack access to health insurance and paid sick leave, which can make balancing other household expenses such as childcare and education particularly challenging. This means that a single unexpected medical bill or a marginal increase in wages can trap these families in a vicious cycle of poverty.

For the 8.5 million children living in female-headed low-income working families, increasing the minimum wage would be a big step forward. Meanwhile, the wage boost for the 15.3 million women working at minimum wage would ease the wage gap; women still make only about 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. The overall economic benefit of this boost in wages is expected to improve workforce productivity, increase household spending, and spur job creation.

While the Fair Minimum Wage Act to raise the federal minimum to $10.10 stalls in the U.S. House of Representatives, state governments across the country are recognizing that minimum wage leaves many families far from self-sufficiency. Our state legislature will consider LB 943 this session, which would gradually increase the state minimum wage to $9.00 over the span of three years. See our public testimony on LB 943 here, and learn more about self-sufficiency in Nebraska by county with our Family Bottom Line Calculator.

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