As others have written, President Obama’s State of the Union address this week was, in many ways, a game changer. The President focused his speech on economic policies that are crucial for addressing women’s and families’ economic security – not only as an argument of economic fairness but as sound economic policy:
A family with two kids that earns the minimum wage still lives below the poverty line. That’s wrong, Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour. It could mean the difference between groceries or the food bank; rent or eviction; scraping by or finally getting ahead. For businesses across the country, it would mean customers with more money in their pockets.
As we’ve written before, a raise in the federal minimum wage to $9 per hour would not only affect almost 700,000 low-wage workers in North Carolina, it would have a potential positive GDP impact of $495 million.
North Carolina’s minimum wage tracks the federal standard of $7.25 per hour, which means that a full-time minimum wage worker earns roughly $15,080 per year. A conservative measure of actual family costs for one adult and one child in North Carolina requires an income of more than twice this amount. And the price of food, gas and utilities has steadily climbed while the value of the minimum wage has not.
In North Carolina, as in the rest of the country, the majority of minimum wage workers are adults, many of whom are supporting families. And minimum wage workers are disproportionately women. As this infographic from the National Women’s Law Center demonstrates, women have about a 4 percent chance of becoming the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, yet have a more than 60 percent chance of being a minimum wage worker.
A recent letter signed by close to 600 economists called on our nation’s leaders to raise the minimum wage, reemphasizing that doing so is good economic policy. And a robust body of research has looked at employment levels before and after minimum wage increases in states, counties, and metropolitan areas and has shown that raises in the minimum wage failed to lead to job losses, even during times of high unemployment.
It’s pretty straightforward: jobs that don’t pay enough to pay the bills, can’t sustain the economy. Take a look at this 1.5 minute video from the Topos Partnership - it’s a great illustration of how adequate job compensation builds thriving communities.