Invest in PA’s Future: Raise the Wage to Reduce Child Poverty

Anne DeCecco
Publication Date: 
June 12, 2018

Read the press release

Read the full briefing paper

Download County Level Estimates of the Reduction in Child Poverty from a Minimum Wage Increase

All parents want what’s best for their kids. But the minimum wage has eroded to the point where many parents who work hard are simply not paid enough to make ends meet. For example, a single parent with two kids who works full time at the federal minimum wage earns $5,700 below the poverty threshold. This is due to a systemic problem with how little our economy values workers – not individual shortcomings.

Because children are our most vulnerable community members, they experience poverty at higher rates than the general population. In Pennsylvania, the poverty rate is 13%, but it rises to 19% when you look only at the state’s young people. In other words, over 500,000 PA children live in poverty and that is a conservative estimate. Nationally, Pennsylvania ranks in the middle (28th out of the 50 states) based on the share of children who are in poverty. As the map below illustrates, child poverty is a widespread problem throughout much of the state. Most Pennsylvania counties with the highest child poverty rates (dark blue on the map) are in rural parts of the state.

Policymakers have a number of tools at their disposal to address child poverty.  A comprehensive strategy for reducing child poverty combines safety net programs to target improvements in child health and early education with higher family incomes. Research shows that putting more money in parents’ pockets has proved highly effective at improving child outcomes. Raising the minimum wage is one of the best ways to do this. The chart on the next page shows just what kind of difference raising the wage would make for kids.