Fair Pay for Women and People of Color in Connecticut Requires Increasing the Minimum Wage
Tens of thousands of workers in Connecticut – mostly women and people of color – struggle to make ends meet on minimum wage earnings. A bill pending in the Connecticut Senate (S.B. 387) would raise the minimum wage from $8.25 per hour to $9.00 per hour in 2013 and to $9.75 per hour in 2014, then index it to inflation beginning in 2015. Increasing the minimum wage is a key step toward fair pay for women and people of color in Connecticut.
Women and people of color are more likely to be paid the minimum wage.
- Women made up nearly six in ten Connecticut workers who were paid Connecticut’s minimum wage or less in 2011. They provided care for children and elders, cleaned homes and offices, and waited tables.
- Women of color are disproportionately represented among female minimum wage workers. Nationally, black and Hispanic women were each just over 12 percent of all employed women in 2011; among women who made the federal minimum wage, nearly 15 percent were black and more than 16 percent were Hispanic.
- Overall, people of color are disproportionately represented among minimum wage workers. Nationally, black and Hispanic workers were about 11 percent and 14 percent of all workers in 2011, respectively; among workers who made the federal minimum wage, just over 15 percent were black and nearly 19 percent were Hispanic.
It’s time to give low-wage workers in Connecticut a raise.
- A woman working full time, year round in Connecticut at the current minimum wage of $8.25 per hour will earn just $16,500 annually. That’s more than $1,600 below the federal poverty line for a mother with two children. If the federal minimum wage (currently $7.25 per hour) had kept pace with inflation, it would be over $10.50 per hour today, setting a floor for states more than $2.25 above Connecticut’s current minimum wage.
- Connecticut families are struggling in this tough economy. In 2011, 28 percent of black families with children were in poverty, 32 percent of Hispanic families with children were in poverty, and 33 percent of single-mother families were in poverty.
Raising the minimum wage and the tipped minimum wage would boost wages for working women and people of color in Connecticut and help close the wage gap.
- Increasing the minimum wage to $9.75 per hour would boost annual earnings to $19,500, an increase of $3,000 per year – enough to lift a family of three out of poverty. Indexing the wage to inflation would prevent its value from falling further relative to the cost of living.
- The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) estimates that if Connecticut’s minimum wage were increased to $9.75 per hour by 2014, over 246,000 Connecticut workers would get a raise. Almost 59 percent of the workers who would benefit are women, and more than 35 percent are people of color.
- Increasing the minimum wage would mean higher pay for thousands of Connecticut women and help close the wage gap. In 2011, Connecticut women working full time, year round were paid only 78 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. Black women working full time, year round made only 58 cents, and Hispanic women only 48 cents, for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic male counterparts.
Raising the minimum wage would strengthen Connecticut’s economy.
- Increasing the wages paid to low-wage workers results in lower turnover, boosts worker efforts, and encourages employers to invest in their workers.
- Raising the minimum wage does not cause job loss, even during periods of recession.
- Most minimum wage workers need this income to make ends meet and spend it quickly, boosting the economy. Research indicates that for every $1 added to the minimum wage, low-wage worker households spent an additional $2,800 the following year. 
- EPI estimates that raising Connecticut’s minimum hourly wage to $9.75 by 2014 would generate about $148 million in additional economic activity and nearly 1,300 jobs.
 NWLC calculations based on unpublished U.S. Dep’t of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Figures are annual averages for 2011. Available data do not permit a precise calculation of the percentage of women making the state minimum wage in Connecticut ($8.25 per hour). However, women were 59 percent of workers making $7.99 per hour or less and 56 percent of workers making $8.99 per hour or less in Connecticut in 2011.
 The term “minimum wage workers” refers to workers making the federal minimum wage or less.
 NWLC calculations from U.S. Dep’t of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey. Figure for black women from Table 3, http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat03.htm (last visited Apr. 6, 2012). Figure for Hispanic women from Table 4, http://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat04.htm (last visited Apr. 6, 2012).
 NWLC calculations, supra note 3.
 NWLC calculations, supra note 4.
 NWLC calculation assuming 40 hours per week, 50 weeks per year at $8.25 per hour.
 U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, 2012 Annual Social and Economic Supplement, Table POV35, http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/cpstables/032012/pov/toc.htm (last visited Feb. 5, 2013).
 At $8.25 per hour, Connecticut’s minimum wage is higher than the federal minimum wage. The high-water mark for the federal minimum wage of $1.60 in 1968 (see Douglas Hall, EPI, Increasing the Minimum Wage Is Smart for Families and the Economy (May 2011), available at http://www.epi.org/publication/increasing_the_minimum_wage_is_smart_for_families_and_the_economy/) would be $10.56 in 2012 according to the U.S. Dep’t of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator, http://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm (last visited Feb. 5, 2013).
 Ibid (Table B17010I). Figures are for households where the householder’s ethnicity is Hispanic or Latino.
 Ibid (Table S1702).
 NWLC calculation assuming 40 hours per week, 50 weeks per year at $9.75 per hour for the minimum wage.
 Unpublished EPI estimates. EPI estimates that 154,000 workers making less than $9.75 per hour would directly benefit from a wage increase, and 92,000 workers making slightly more would also see their pay rise due to the higher floor set by the new minimum wage.
 Under most circumstances a higher minimum wage would narrow the wage distribution, effectively narrowing the wage gap. Nicole M. Fortin & Thomas Lemieux, Institutional Changes and Rising Inequality, Journal of Economic Perspectives, Spring 1997, 75-96, at 78, available at http://www.econ.ucdavis.edu/faculty/mepage/econ151b/Fortin%20and%20Lemieux.pdf. See also Francine D. Blau & Lawrence M. Kahn, Swimming Upstream, Journal of Labor Economics, Jan. 1997, 1-42, at 28, available at http://aysps.gsu.edu/isp/files/ISP_SUMMER_SCHOOL_2008_CURRIE_Swimming_Upstream.pdf
 T. William Lester, David Madland & Nick Bunker, Ctr. for Amer. Progress, An Increased Minimum Wage is Good Policy Even During Hard Times (June 2011), available at http://www.americanprogressaction.org/issues/2011/06/higher_minimum_wage.html.
 Daniel Aaronson, Sumit Agarwal & Eric French, Fed. Reserve Bank of Chicago, The Spending and Debt Responses to Minimum Wage Increases, at 10 (Revised Feb. 2011), available at http://www.chicagofed.org/digital_assets/publications/working_papers/2007/wp2007_23.pdf.
 Unpublished EPI estimates.