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News from EPI Raising the New York state minimum wage to $15 an hour will lift wages for 3.2 million workers

In September 2015, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called for legislation to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, which if enacted, would make New York the first state with a statewide $15 minimum wage. Increasing the state minimum wage to $15 would raise pay for 3.2 million New Yorkers, according to a new paper from EPI senior economic analyst David Cooper.

Key findings of Raising the New York state minimum wage to $15 by July 2021 would lift wages for 3.2 million workers include:

  • In New York City, the increase would raise the wages of 1.4 million workers, approximately 35 percent of the city’s workforce.
  • Outside of New York City, the increase would lift pay for 1.7 million workers, roughly 38 percent of wage earners throughout the rest of the state.
  • Contrary to stereotypes that low-wage workers are teenagers working part-time, nearly 95 percent of workers who would benefit from the proposed increase are 20 years old or older, and more than three-quarters are 25 or older.
  • The majority of affected workers (52.7 percent) are women.
  • Over 45 percent of single working mothers would get a raise from a $15 state minimum wage, as would 39.3 percent of single working fathers.
  • Statewide, 1.3 million children—about 34 percent of all children in the state—have a parent who would benefit from the proposed increase.
  • Statewide, roughly half of the affected workforce would be workers of color. Within New York City, more than three-quarters of affected workers are people of color.
  • More than half of all Hispanic or Latino workers in the state would receive a raise, as would over 40 percent of all African American workers.
  • Once the increase to $15 was phased in, the average affected worker would earn roughly $4,800 more in annual pay than she does today.

“As Congress continues to let inflation erode the value of the federal minimum wage, it makes sense for state policymakers to act to ensure that their state’s labor standards reflect the needs of today’s economy,” said Cooper. “Raising the New York state minimum wage to $15 would help ensure regular full-time employment provides workers with the means to a decent standard of living.”

Cooper’s analysis shows that a $15 minimum wage by July 2021 is in line with what New York workers need to get by. According to EPI’s Family Budget Calculator, in the least expensive area of New York—the Buffalo/Niagara Falls metro area—a single, childless adult working full time, year round, will require an hourly wage of $15 or more to afford a modest but adequate standard of living by 2021. While Governor Cuomo has not yet released a specific timetable for phasing in the minimum wage increase, it is likely that the schedule will resemble the minimum wage increase for fast-food workers implemented by the state’s wage board—$15 per hour by 2018 for workers in New York City and by 2021 throughout the rest of the state.