The vast majority of American households’ income comes from what workers receive in their paychecks – which is why wages are so important. Unfortunately, wages for most workers grew exceptionally slowly between 1979 and 2012, despite productivity—which essentially measures the economy’s potential for providing rising living standards for all—rising 64 percent. In other words, most Americans, even those with college degrees, have only been treading water—despite working more productively (and being better educated) than ever.

EARN groups provide key research and policy analysis describing how these trends have played out at the state and local levels, and what policymakers can do about it.


The Retail Sector—New York’s Biggest Low-wage Employer Needs to Provide Higher Wages

Among all sectors, retail trade has the most low-wage workers in New York State. Over a half million (555,200) retail workers will benefit from an increase in the statewide minimum wage to $15 an hour. These workers make up nearly a fifth (18 percent) of the 3.2 million workers receiving a wage boost, although retail jobs represent one in nine of all New York jobs. With the phased-in $15 minimum wage floor, 61 percent of all women retail workers would receive higher wages, as would 55 percent of all men retail workers. Retail workers are overwhelmingly adults (91 percent), only 9 percent are teenagers. Fifty-three percent of the retail workers who would benefit are white, non-Hispanic, and 47 percent are persons of color. Of all African-American retail workers, 62 percent would receive a wage increase, as would 65 percent of all Latino retail workers. More than one-quarter (27 percent) of all retail workers are parents struggling to raise families on very low wages. Over half of all retail workers (53 percent) who would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage receive some form of public assistance because their retail wages are so low. Median hourly pay for New York’s retail workers has fallen by 7-9 percent since 2002, adjusted for inflation, this is far greater than the 1 percent decline in the overall median wage.

$15 Minimum Wage Would Raise Earnings for 1.1 Million Immigrants

Gradually raising the New York State minimum wage from its current level of $9/hour to $15/hour by 2019 in New York City and mid-2021 in the rest of the state would give a much needed raise to 1.1 million immigrant workers. In all, there are 3.2 million New York workers who will benefit from the phased-in wage increase, which would on average increase wages by $4,900 per year. These numbers reflect the workers who would gain once a phased-in minimum wage is fully in place. Setting a wage floor at $15/hour will disproportionately benefit immigrants, who are more likely to be in lower-wage jobs than their U.S.-born counterparts. Forty-three percent of all immigrants working in the state would get a raise, as would 36 percent of all workers.

Better Pay for Honest Work Brief

Georgia’s economy is increasingly tilted toward the types of jobs that don’t pay workers enough to make ends meet or
keep their families out of poverty. They are food servers at local restaurants. Retail clerks selling products they can’t
afford. Home health aides helping the frail and disabled live with dignity. More Georgians are working in these types of
jobs than ever, and the state’s economy is leaving them behind. Wages are flat, workers put in extra hours at lowerquality
jobs, while inequality skyrockets. Georgia businesses and the economy struggle as a result, as working families
spend and invest less.

Fact Checking the Empire Center/American Action Forum Analysis of New York’s Proposed $15 Minimum Wage: Flawed Methods Produce Erroneous Results

The Empire Center and American Action Forum (EC/AAF) have released a report, “Higher Pay, Fewer Jobs,” predicting that Governor Cuomo’s proposal to phase New York’s minimum wage up to $15 by 2021 statewide (and by 2018 in New York City) would result in the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs across the state. But while the impact of a proposed minimum wage increase on New York’s workers, businesses and economy is an important question, the EC/AAF report sheds little light on the answer.