Wages

The vast majority of American households’ income comes from what workers receive in their paychecks – which is why wages are so important. Unfortunately, wages for most workers grew exceptionally slowly between 1979 and 2012, despite productivity—which essentially measures the economy’s potential for providing rising living standards for all—rising 64 percent. In other words, most Americans, even those with college degrees, have only been treading water—despite working more productively (and being better educated) than ever.

EARN groups provide key research and policy analysis describing how these trends have played out at the state and local levels, and what policymakers can do about it.

Publications

The COVID-19 Recession Further Undercuts California Women’s Opportunities for Economic Security

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many Californians and Americans to unprecedented economic instability, but many women in California were already struggling to pay the bills prior to the onset of the economic crisis. According to the California Women’s Well-Being Index, in a five-year period leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, many women across the state were experiencing economic hardship — and this was happening during the longest period of economic growth on record. California women faced a significant wage gap, and women were more likely than men to earn low wages and to live in poverty. Pre-pandemic hardship and lack of economic security was particularly acute for American Indian, Black, Latinx, and Pacific Islander women in California.

What a $15 Minimum Wage Means for Working Wisconsin

We’ve released a new factsheet on how raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2025 in Wisconsin would impact the state’s workers. Using data from the Economic Policy Institute’s recently released report on the Raise the Wage Act of 2021 (which would raise the national minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2025), we’ve summarized findings for Wisconsin and added some context to fill in the picture on wage standards in the state and region.

COWS’ State of Working Wisconsin 2020 showed the ways the pandemic and the COVID-19 economic collapse has exposed and exacerbated economic inequality in the state. The workers who have carried the brunt of the economic burden are disproportionately people of color and women, working in our lowest wage sectors. These are the very workers who stand to gain from a higher minimum wage.

Florida Policymakers Need to Reassess How the Minimum Wage is Enforced

In November 2020, Floridians made the historic decision to move an estimated 2.5 million Floridians closer to a living wage with the passage of Amendment 2. The state minimum wage increase goes into effect in September 2021, increasing from $8.65 to $10 per hour, then rising by $1 per hour each year until it reaches $15 in 2026.

In anticipation of this increase, Florida Policy Institute (FPI) and Rutgers University’s Center for Innovation in Worker Organization (CIWO) assessed the extent to which the current state minimum wage is enforced. FPI and CIWO analyzed over 15 years of U.S. Census data and recent records obtained from the Florida Attorney General’s Office to do so.

Failing to pay workers the minimum wage is but one of many forms of wage theft. However, given the timeliness of Amendment 2, wage theft in this report refers solely to minimum wage violations among low-wage workers (those with incomes in the bottom 20 percent) unless otherwise indicated.

FPI and CIWO’s analysis finds:

  • The minimum wage has been largely unenforced for at least a decade.
  • After Florida’s 2005 minimum wage increase, its minimum wage violation rate more than doubled to 17 percent by the end of 2007.
  • Victims of wage theft lose 18 percent of the minimum wage to which they are entitled, on average, or $1.32 per hour.
  • Floridians in the state’s top industries (agriculture, service, and real estate) suffer the highest wage theft rates.
  • Black, Latina, and immigrant women are more likely to face wage theft than their peers.
  • If these violation rates persist, Florida could expect to lose an average of $25.3 million in sales tax revenue each year over the next six years.

Before Amendment 2 goes into effect, Florida policymakers should mitigate these unsettling trends by reintroducing a State Department of Labor equipped with the authority and resources necessary to ensure working Floridians are paid the wages they are entitled to.

The State of Working Connecticut: Advancing Economic Justice in the Labor Market

Connecticut Voices for Children released their annual State of Working Connecticut report entitled, “Advancing Economic Justice in the Labor Market.”  This year’s report examines the economic standing of Connecticut’s workers and calls for a sweeping, antiracist program to advance economic justice; additionally, it offers six recommendations to combat rising wage inequality and to address the substantial racial wage gaps in the U.S. and Connecticut.