More than 50 million workers in America earn less than $15 an hour – and they are disproportionately women of color.
A report an Oxfam America report released on Tuesday found that nearly a third of American workers (31.9%) earn less than $15 an hour, or about $31,200 a year.
While the federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, workers and Democratic lawmakers have been calling for years for it to be raised to a “liveable” $15 an hour nationwide.
By analyzing data from the American Community Survey and the US Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, Oxfam researchers found what they called a “staggering” racial and gender gap in concerns people who earn low wages in this country:
47% of black workers earn less than $15 an hour, compared to 26% of white workers
40% of women earn less than $15 an hour, compared to only 25% of men
And an alarming 50% of women of color are paid less than $15 an hour.
Oxfam estimated that with current inflation levels at their highest level in 40 yearsthe value of the minimum wage – which Congress last raised more than a decade ago in 2009 – has fallen about 21% since then.
“It’s been 13 years since Congress raised the wage floor in this country, and during that time all costs of living have steadily increased,” said Kaitlyn Henderson, senior research adviser at Oxfam America, in the publication of the report. “It is shameful that at a time when many American companies are posting record profits, some of the hardest working people in this country – especially those who keep our economy and society running – are struggling to cope. get out and fall behind.”
The report calls for what many Democratic workers and lawmakers have been calling for for years: a universal minimum wage of $15 per hour – which Oxfam says would lift millions of people out of poverty and help reduce widening wealth inequality in the United States
Even though the federal minimum wage remains at $7.25 an hour, some workers are allowed to be paid even less than that, the report says, including farm workers and domestic workers, who are disproportionately people. of color. And workers earning “tipped” wages – around 4.3 million people, mostly in the service sector – have only a minimum wage of $2.13 per hour (which has not increased since 1991). While employers are supposed to ensure that the actual wages of these workers exceed their local minimum wage, “enforcement is difficult, leading to rampant wage theft,” according to the report.
A state by state map accompanying the Oxfam report shows which US regions are paying the least. For example, in Mississippi — the state with the highest rate of workers earning less than $15 an hour — 63% of black workers and 70% of women of color earn less than $15 an hour. At the other end of the spectrum, Washington DC, Washington State, and California have the lowest concentration of low-wage workers.