A $15 minimum wage will not end poverty for working Americans, despite what Democrats told us last week.
During last week’s Democratic National Convention, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker made a bold claim about a Biden presidency:
Together, with Joe and Kamala in the White House, we’ll raise the minimum wage so no one who works a full-time job lives in poverty.
Ending poverty for working families should be aspirational, but a $15 minimum wage is not the way to get there.
Fact-checkers at the Associated Press assessed this claim as false:
That’s an improbable outcome for the $15 minimum wage supported by Biden.
A 2019 report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated increasing the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour would lift 1.3 million Americans out of poverty, a small fraction of the roughly 38 million people living in poverty in 2018.
Senator Booker might say that they are focused on ending poverty for working Americans. Even on that claim, he’s still wrong.
There are some 7 million “working poor” in America according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), six times more than those expected to be lifted from poverty. Women are more likely to be among the working poor than men and minorities than whites.
What’s most concerning: 1.3 million other workers would become jobless. So just as many Americans would lose their jobs as those who would rise above the poverty level.
In cities and states that raised their minimum wages to at or near $15 per hour, workers have not only lost jobs, but they’ve had their paychecks reduced because their hours were cut.
Working Americans don’t want to live in poverty. They want to experience the upward mobility that is a hallmark of the American dream.
Boosting their education and training so they can obtain higher-paying jobs is a better strategy than artificially forcing up the lowest wages for some and delivering pink slips to others.
As the BLS data indicate, the likelihood of falling into poverty diminishes as workers attain higher levels of education. Some 13.5 percent of workers with less than a high school were classified as poor compared with just 1.4 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Does that mean that every worker needs a four-year degree? No. Perhaps skills-based certifications are the best path for many low-wage workers.
However, Democrats want to just boost bottom wages with no regard for the unintended consequences. In the long run, a $15 minimum wage will not expand their work options, deliver career opportunities, allow them to grow professionally, or increase their long-term earnings.