Bare minimum

The working poor as society's greatest philanthropists
They serve us at restaurants; they trim our lawns; they clean our houses and hotel rooms; they take our money at convenience stores. They are the minimum-wage earners, who, if their state’s minimum isn’t higher, are paid just $5.15 an hour. At 40 hours per week, 52 weeks a year, that amounts to $10,700 annually—nearly $6,000 less than the federal poverty line for a family of three.

Since the minimum wage was last raised nearly a decade ago, workers’ purchasing power has been reduced by more than 20 percent. When adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage is at its lowest point in the past 50 years, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Thirty-five percent of minimum-wage earners are the sole earners in their families; two-thirds of them are women; and about three-fourths of them are full-time workers. In other words, we are not talking about teenagers working part-time to earn pocket change.


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