Blog: Minimum Wage Raise Would Primarily Benefit Adult Workers in PA

Publication Date: 
January 30, 2014

Mark PriceCross posted at Third and State

In January, the minimum wage rose to $8.25 an hour in New Jersey, $8 in New York, and to $7.95 in Ohio — while here in Pennsylvania it remains at the federal level of $7.25 an hour, unchanged since 2009. Legislation in Pennsylvania would change that, raising the state's wage to $9 an hour by 2015.

With raising the minimum wage likely to be a defining issue in this year's gubernatorial race — and a national campaign to raise the wage gaining momentum in the wake of stagnating wages and a series of strikes at fast-food restaurants — expect to read and hear a lot about state and federal efforts to raise the minimum wage over the next year.

You can also expect to read and hear a lot about a familiar argument from opponents: that raising the minimum wage is a bad idea because it will mainly benefit teens working summer jobs for extra cash.

Simply put, that argument is just not true.

As I testified on January 9 before the House Democratic Policy Committee, most of the million workers in Pennsylvania who would be affected by an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour (as President Obama has proposed) are adults working more than 20 hours a week and contributing a notable share to their family's income.

These figures sum it up nicely (relying on research by David Cooper of the Economic Policy Institute).
Figure 1. Of the million Pennsylvania workers affected by increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, 84% are adults.
Of the million Pennsylvania workers affected by increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, 81% work 20 or more hours a week.
Pennsylvania parents affected by a minimum wage increase to $10.10 an hour take home on average just over half of their family income (19% of the affected parents are the only breadwinner in the family)