NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Some Surprising Facts About Minimum Wage Workers

November 9, 1999

Congress and the Clinton administration are intent on raising the minimum wage yet again. They paint pictures of men and women valiantly toiling just to keep themselves and their families alive.

But the true picture is vastly different, economists report.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 4.4 million out of the 130 million plus workers nationwide earn $5.15 per hour or less. But there is much the statistics overlook. For example, waitresses and bartenders may officially earn only the minimum wage, but they make far more when tips are included. Yet the official BLS data do not take account of that.

The Employment Policy Foundation has come up with some enlightening statistics regarding minimum wage workers.

  • Fewer than 20 percent of the 4.4 million minimum wage earners live in poor families -- most of them being young and unskilled.
  • More than 40 percent of them live at home with their parents.
  • One-third are teens and more than half are under the age of 25.
  • Half of all minimum wage earners live in families with incomes above $25,000 -- and nearly one-fifth live in families with incomes over $50,000.

Fewer than one million of those earning the minimum live in working-poor families, which have one or more parents working and are still below the poverty line.

Source: Peter Cleary, "Would Minimum-Wage Hike Help?" Investor's Business Daily, November 9, 1999.


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