How do we increase family economic security? We increase the minimum wage!

Fri, 2013-07-19 13:59

As they do every year, the Economic Policy Institute recently released their 2013 Family Budget Calculator. Unlike other measurements of economic security, such as the Federal Poverty Line, this calculator goes beyond giving us a rough idea of the income levels that separate abject poverty from modest poverty or moderate incomes.

Rather, the EPI calculator suggests the minimum income needed for a family to raise children in an economically secure environment.

Using EPI’s Family Budget Calculator, we estimate that a one-parent, one-child family living in Detroit would need an annual income of $49,356, or an hourly wage of $23.73, to live modestly but economically secure. In rural Michigan, this same family would need an annual income of $44,790, or an hourly wage of $21.53.

A Detroit household consisting of two parents and two children would need an annual income of $66,896 to be economically secure. If both parents worked full-time, an hourly wage of $16.08 would allow them to earn this modest annual income. If this same family lived in rural Michigan, their annual income would need to reach at least $62,058, and the parents’ hourly wage would need to be at least $14.92.

What is striking about the incomes suggested by the EPI Family Budget Calculator is that they all require an hourly wage that is several times above the Michigan minimum wage, which currently stands at a mere $7.40 per hour.

In the case of the one-parent households in Detroit and rural Michigan, the required hourly wages would be roughly three times the minimum wage, while the two-parent households would require an hourly wage of over two times the minimum wage.

We have long known that poverty can significantly reduce a child’s academic success, compromise their physical and emotional health, and depress their earnings as adults.

One way to address child poverty – and poverty in general – is to raise the Michigan minimum wage. Doing so would boost low-income parents’ income, and as a result it would reduce the number of children living in poverty.

This July 24th marks the four-year anniversary since the last time the federal minimum wage was increased, from $6.55 to $7.25 per hour. This was not a huge increase, but it was a step in the right direction.

To commemorate the occasion – or to be more precise, to discuss the inadequacy of even this higher minimum wage and highlight the need to increase it again – many events have been planned for this date around the country.

Here in Michigan, Mothering Justice will hold a press conference and a day of action in Detroit and Lansing: 10:00 AM at the Russell Street Deli (2465 Russell Street in Detroit’s Eastern Market); and 11:00 AM at the Central United Methodist Church (215 N. Capitol Ave. in Lansing).

In the next month, the League will release a report on the minimum wage that will compare Michigan to other states in the Midwest, include demographic information on low-wage workers, and describe the populations that would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage. So, stay tuned!

–Yannet Lathrop

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