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News from EPI Raising the minimum wage in Baltimore would give 98,000 workers a raise

In a new report, Economic Policy Institute economic analyst William Kimball analyzes a bill before the Baltimore City Council that would raise the minimum wage in Baltimore to $15 by mid-2020. Kimball finds that the proposal would lift wages for 98,000 workers—about 27 percent of all working people in Baltimore. Once the minimum wage reaches $15, the average affected worker would earn roughly $4,400 more each year than they do today. Virtually all of the workers who would be affected by the increase are 20 years old or older, more than half are women, nearly 70 percent are people of color, almost three-quarters work full time, nearly two-thirds have total household income below $75,000, and more than one-quarter have children.

“Raising the minimum wage to $15 will help nearly 100,000 working people in the Baltimore area have a better life,” said Kimball.

Kimball notes that a majority of workers who would get a raise under the $15 minimum wage proposal (54.2 percent) are African American. Workers in lower-income households, meanwhile, would disproportionately benefit from the minimum wage increase. Nearly half of affected workers come from households making less than $50,000 a year, and an additional 17.4 percent come from households making between $50,000 and $75,000 a year. Nearly two-thirds of Baltimore workers in poverty or near poverty would get a raise under a minimum wage increase to $15.

“The stereotype of teenagers working part time for extra spending money is not representative of the low-wage workforce in Baltimore,” said Kimball. The workers who would benefit from the higher minimum wage are overwhelmingly adults, most of whom come from families of modest means, and many of whom are supporting families of their own. Just 4.3 percent of affected workers are teenagers, while 95.7 percent are age 20 or older. Almost four-fifths of affected workers are age 25 or older.

Other key findings include:

  • Over the course of the minimum wage increase phase-in, workers would gain over $430 million in additional wages.
  • On average, affected workers earn 54.6 percent of their family’s income. Among affected workers with families, just under one-fifth are their family’s sole provider.
  • Over half (52.7 percent) of affected workers have at least some college experience, and 23.6 percent have at least a bachelor’s degree.
  • The industries with the largest shares of affected workers are retail and hospitality. These two industries comprise 27.9 percent of affected workers despite only representing 12.1 percent of the workforce.

“Raising the minimum wage in Baltimore would improve the lives of Baltimore’s mothers and families,” said Kimball. Women make up 55.3 percent of affected workers. The higher minimum wage would particularly benefit working mothers—almost a quarter of Baltimore’s working mothers and more than a third of single working mothers would receive a pay increase.

Importantly, the bill before the Baltimore City Council would gradually eliminate Baltimore’s subminimum wage for tipped workers, raising it to meet the full minimum wage by 2025. Currently, tipped workers in Baltimore make as little as $3.63 an hour before tips, leaving them to rely on tips for the bulk of their pay. The resulting instability of tipped income leaves tipped workers—who are disproportionately women and people of color—nearly twice as likely to live in poverty as workers who get paid through a regular paycheck.