The Raise the Wage Act of 2019 Would Benefit Millions of Children

Poverty & Family Economics

 

This week, Senators Bernie Sanders and Patty Murray, as well as Representatives Bobby Scott, Mark Pocan, Stephanie Murphy, and several others reintroduced the Raise the Wage Act, which would raise the national minimum wage annually, until it reaches $15 per hour in 5 years. The number of cosponsors for this bill has grown exponentially over the past two years, now reaching 31 in the Senate, and 181 in the House.

The current nationwide minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, or, as Sen. Sanders refers to it, the “starvation wage,” has not been increased since 2009.

If passed, the Raise the Wage Act of 2019 would increase the minimum wage to $8.55 per hour this year, and then rise every year until reaching $15 by the year 2024. The bill would also eliminate the subminimum wage for tipped employees (currently $2.13), as well as the ability of certified employers to pay disabled workers subminimum wage.

The prospect of doubling the minimum wage by 2024 presents an opportunity to not only improve the lives of American workers, but also their children. According to a fact sheet put out this week by the Economic Policy Institute, 41 million workers would benefit from this raise in pay, 28% of whom have children to support.

This means that over 11 million children would directly feel the positive effects of a new minimum wage.

According to a 2015 report by the Children’s Defense Fund, parents working full-time at the federal minimum wage and supporting two children earn $4,700 below the poverty level. Increasing the wage from $7.25 to $10.10 would reduce child poverty by 4% and lift 400,000 children out of poverty.

States such as Washington, Oregon, Arizona, Maine, and others have approved raising their minimum wages in recent years. For example, Maine voters approved a referendum to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour in 2016. This wage has gradually increased each year since and is currently $11 an hour as of January 1, 2019.

The benefits of this are already tangible to Maine’s workforce and their children. According to the Maine Center for Economic Policy, 44,300 children (17%) lived in households which earned less than the poverty level in 2016. That number dropped 4% to 33,000 children (13%) in 2017 after just one year of increasing the minimum wage.

According to researchers at Indiana University, raising minimum wage by a mere $1 would contribute to a 9.6% decline in reports of neglect of children between the ages 0-12. Parents who live in a constant state of financial instability and struggle to provide enough resources for their children often suffer from stress, anxiety, and depression, making it more difficult to respond to their children’s emotional needs. Increased income therefore improves financial stability, improves the physical and mental health of children and families and in turn, child maltreatment rates.

First Focus Campaign for Children is proud to support the Raise the Wage Act of 2019, which would empower millions of American workers with children to provide critical resources such as nutritious food, health care, adequate shelter, warm clothing, and educational materials to support their children’s healthy development.

For more analysis, on the effects of increasing the minimum wage and how it would affect children and families, see our previous post on this issue.