Lately between the state and national battles on raising the minimum wage, people everywhere are talking about the potential impacts of the change.
The people on the right, want you to believe that raising the minimum wage will cost jobs. This is completely untrue. In fact according to a recent study done by the Center for Economic and Policy Research they found that “The weight of that evidence points to little or no employment response to modest increases in the minimum wage.” This does not mean that a few smaller companies would not have to make some staffing adjustments if the wage was increased. The truth is that most of these companies are already paying employees above minimum wage. In fact over 66% of minimum wage earners work for major corporations (I.E Wal-Mart and McDonalds) not small businesses.
The other common myth that the Republicans are trying to spread is that minimum wage earners are just teenagers working their first job. Contrary to what they are saying only 13% of minimum wage earners nationally are teenagers. Here in New Hampshire that number is a little higher at 22%. That is a far cry from a majority of workers, that is not even a quarter of worker. They are adults, struggling every day to survive. In fact over “more than a third (35.8 percent) are married, and over a quarter (28.0 percent) are parents“. What kind of family life could you possibly have if your being forced to work 100 hours a week to survive?
For everyone, housing is the biggest concern. Some people must choose to pay the rent before they pay for food. This is wrong. To “Live within your means” your housing costs should not exceed 30% of you total income. This allows you to pay for rent, and any other housing costs without having to sacrifice in other areas, like dinner.
For many low income families this 30% number is just unattainable. In fact according to fair market value of rent (FMR), a person would have to earn $18.79 per hour to afford a two bedroom apartment. In the federal minimum wage is $7.25 then a worker would have to work over 100 hours a week to pay the rent. This is an outrage. Here in New Hampshire, the FMR of a two bedroom apartment is $20.47. That is 113 hours a week at minimum wage. While the New Hampshire is debating an increase to around $10 an hour, would this really help? In NH a minimum wage worker would still be required to work 81 hours to afford an apartment.
New Hampshire is far from the worst when it comes to rental prices. Hawaii comes in at a whopping $32.14 per hour. The minimum wage in Hawaii is set to the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour. That mean a worker would have to work 177 hours a week to afford a two bedroom apartment. Remember there are only 168 hours in a week. As you can clearly see below, there is not a single state where a minimum wage earner could live without working 80 hours a week.
We must not let partisan politics and party rhetoric get in the way of doing what is best for the millions of workers struggling every day to pay their rent. We can do better, we should do better. Congress should raise the minimum wage and chain it to inflation so it will continue to rise automatically. Then state can determine if they need to add to the federal minimum to adjust for local costs of living.