Six reasons why children benefit from a minimum wage increasePoverty & Family Economics
Children, unable to care for themselves, rely on their parents to provide basic necessities and to invest in their future. It is evident that children who grow up in poor, low-income households have poorer outcomes than children who grow up with enough income to meet their basic needs and save for their future.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, “more than 60 million people, including more than 15 million children, live in households that depend on the earnings of a low-wage worker, 35 percent of whom are caring for children at home.”
Studies and research have proven that increasing the minimum wage would lead to happier, healthier and more successful children. A higher wage also means decreased stress levels in children, improved relationships, and stronger chances of upward mobility. All too often, despite their best efforts, parents’ low wages may not be enough to do well by their kids.
A great way to invest in the well-being of America’s children is to raise the minimum wage. Given the rising cost of living and stagnant wage growth, there’s never been a greater time of need for change.
Consider the pressing reasons why we need to raise the federal minimum wage:
1. It would reduce the nation’s tragically high child poverty rate
It is hard to ignore the statistics. The U.S. Census reports that nearly one in five American children live in poverty. According to UNICEF, this is a higher proportion than almost every other developed country in the world. In addition, nearly 9 million full-time working adults cannot keep their families out of poverty.
The truth is that lifting children out of poverty goes hand-in-hand with providing fair wages to hard-working parents. Most low-wage workers fall somewhere near or at the poverty line. Parents with two children working full time at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour currently earn $4,700 below the poverty level. Nearly 70 percent of the 14.7 million poor children in America live with an adult who works, and 30 percent live with an adult who works full-time year-round. Boosting the minimum wage would allow low- wage working parents to move away from the poverty line and therefore lift more children out of poverty.
2. Income matters for child well-being
Working families receiving benefits also need a separate form of income that can go towards basic needs. While SNAP, TANF, and other public assistance programs are necessary and extremely beneficial to families, parents need a source of money that can be used for outside expenses to improve their children’s well-being, some examples being: transportation, diapers, and savings for education. Raising the minimum wage could even lead to budgetary savings in such public assistance programs as well.
3. Some states have increased, and are increasing their minimum wages
As of Jan. 1, 2016, 14 states raised had their minimum wages, lifting wages for over 4.6 million workers across the country. These states clearly see the benefits; they aren’t waiting for the government to act. Voters and policymakers throughout the country recognize that the federal minimum wage of $7.25 is too low. Wage stagnation is what traps many people in poverty. The minimum wage has lost nearly one quarter of its value since 1968. If it had grown at the same rate as productivity, the minimum wage would be $18.42 today – nearly triple the current minimum wage. The time to raise the minimum wage is long overdue.
4. Working families have been shown to use the extra money wisely
A study in the UK found that when single parent families received £30 extra a week, the money was spent on household items, in particular clothing, footwear, and books for their children. Researchers also noted a decrease in alcohol and tobacco spending.
In a Smokey Mountain experiment, extra profits given to poor local Indian tribes lifted a number of children out of income poverty and led to an improvement in children’s overall mental health.
5. The minimum wage complements other ways to reduce child poverty
The indexing of child tax credits, the Earned Income Tax Credit benefit, and the Overtime Pay Rule support giving working parents more money by increasing the minimum to benefit children. The EITC works hand-in-hand with the minimum wage to help low-income earners get by, and the Overtime rule no longer deprives workers of earned income that could help their children at home.
In addition, the Children’s Defense Fund has done a study showing that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 could immediately reduce 4-8 percent of child poverty, lift 400,000 children above poverty, and generate $15.2 million in new revenue to state and federal governments.
6. Many low-wage job conditions of parents poorly effect kids
According to recent reports released by the National Women’s Law Center, more than 25 percent of workers in the U.S. have a non-standard working schedule, millions of these workers being women and mothers. When low-wage working parents struggle with employment unpredictability, limited benefits, inadequate paychecks, and rigid attendance policies, their children reap the repercussions. These non-standard practices make it difficult for parents to balance keeping their jobs, and having a steady income flow while meeting childcare responsibilities.
Children whose parents have low-income jobs cannot receive the high-quality childcare they need, so many have low academic success, strained relationships, cognitive and behavioral issues, and additional negative results.
With no real form of legislation addressing these less than ideal working conditions, raising the minimum wage is a substantial way to benefit low-income workers and their children, especially because a majority of low-income workers work to support their children, not themselves. An increase of income would lead to greater child well-being and a strengthened confidence in parents, particularly because many can’t find a way out of working low-wage jobs with the current income they make.
Olivia Tompkins is a Summer 2016 communications intern at First Focus. She is a junior at the University of Georgia, studying public relations with a certificate in public affairs communication. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Six reasons why children benefit from a minimum wage increase | Olivia Tompkins via @First_Focus http://bit.ly/29Msdbf #InvestInKids
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