Economic Snapshot | Wages, Incomes, and Wealth

Low-Wage Workers Are Older than You Think: 89 Percent of Workers Who Would Benefit from a $12 Minimum Wage are at Least 20 Years Old

Raising America's Pay

It’s a common myth that very low-wage workers—workers who would get a raise if the minimum wage were increased—are mostly teenagers working to earn extra spending money. The reality is that raising the federal minimum wage to $12.00 per hour would primarily benefit older workers. 89 percent of workers who would be affected by raising the minimum wage are at least 20 years old, and 37 percent are at least 40 years old.

When describing who would see a raise if the minimum wage were increased, it is important to look at everyone who earns between the current minimum wage and the proposed new one, as well as workers earning just above the new minimum wage (who would likely also see a small pay increase as employers move to preserve internal wage ladders). As the infographic shows, the typical worker who would be affected by an increase in the minimum wage to $12.00 per hour by 2020 looks nothing like the part-time, teen stereotype: She is in her thirties, works full-time, and may have a family to support.

The Economic Policy Institute and the National Employment Law Project released a fact sheet, It’s Time to Raise the Minimum Wage, with detailed tables on the impact of raising the minimum wage to $12 by 2020 and indexing it to median wages thereafter. The fact sheet draws on data from a forthcoming paper by economic analyst David Cooper, Raising the Minimum Wage to $12 by 2020 Would Lift Wages for 35 Million American Workers.

See related work on Income and wages | Minimum Wage | Raising America's Pay

See more work by David Cooper and Dan Essrow