On Tuesday, voters in voters in four states—Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota—will decide whether to raise their states’ minimum wages. In Illinois, voters will also cast their ballots on an advisory measure to raise their state minimum. According to an analysis by Ben Casselman at FiveThirtyEight, raising the minimum wage in these five states (by a $0.25 per hour in Arkansas to $1.75 per hour in Illinois) could affect 680,000 low-wage workers. Minimum wage hikes are also on the ballot in the Bay Area cities of Oakland and San Francisco.
Moving the minimum wage closer to a family-supporting “living wage” is a critical policy to move the nation toward inclusive growth. Most of the jobs being added to the economy are low-wage jobs, and nearly everywhere, the minimum wage is simply not enough to make ends meet (the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour). Since low-wage workers are disproportionately workers of color, raising the minimum wage has the double benefit of addressing racial as well as economic inclusion.
Interested in learning some more facts behind these wage debates? The National Equity Atlas is a great source of data on long-term wage trends in states and regions. Here are 12 facts—two about each of these five states and two from the San Francisco Bay Area—drawn from the Wages, Income Growth, and Job and Wage Growth indicators in the Atlas:
#1 Alaska’s full-time workers at the 10th percentile earned about $7,700 less in 2012 than in 1980—a 25 percent decline.
#2 Over the past two decades, Alaska grew low-wage jobs (74 percent increase) much more quickly than middle- (21 percent) or high-wage ones (53 percent).
#3 In Arkansas, full-time workers at the 10th percentile earned about $1,700 less in 2012 than in 1980—a 9 percent decline.
#4 Since 1980, the median wage for workers of color in Arkansas has been $13 per hour and the median wage for white workers has been $17 per hour.
#5 In Illinois, full-time workers at the 10th percentile earned about $5,000 less in 2012 than in 1980—a 20 percent decline.
#6 Since 1990, Illinois grew low-wage jobs (22 percent increase) much more quickly than middle- (.3 percent) or high-wage ones (7 percent).
#7 Nebraska’s full-time workers at the 10th percentile earned about $800 less in 2012 than in 1980.
#8 The median wage for Nebraska’s workers of color in 1980 was $18 per hour; in 2012 it was $13 per hour.
#9 South Dakota’s full-time workers at the 10th percentile earned just $670 more in 2012 than in 1980—a 3 percent raise over more than three decades.
#10 The median wage for both white workers and workers of color in South Dakota today is a dollar less per hour than it was in 1980.
SAN FRANCISCO-OAKLAND-FREMONT METRO AREA
#11 In the Bay Area, full-time workers at the 10th percentile earned about $2,500 less in 2012 than in 1980—a 10 percent decline.
#12 The median wage for white Bay Area workers has increased from $27 to $34 per hour between 1980 and 2012; for workers of color the median wage only increased from $22 to $23 per hour during that time period.