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.


Left Out Working Women of Florida

  • May 8, 2014

Florida’s female workforce earned an average annual salary of $11,260 below their male counterparts in 2013, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics1. Five decades after the passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 women continue to earn 23.1% below men’s an average annual salary.

Louisiana Needs a Higher Wage

Louisianans of all political stripes strongly favor establishing a state minimum wage of at least $8.50 an hour that would keep pace with the cost of living, according to polling data released as part of a new report from the Louisiana Budget Project.

The poll of 1,279 Louisiana adults by LSU’s Public Policy Research Lab found that 73 percent of the public supports raising the wage from the current minimum of $7.25 per hour. The support is consistent across party lines, with 62 percent of Republicans favoring the higher wage along with nearly 70 percent of political independents. Voters in every age, income and racial bracket support the higher wage.

“While some politicians make the minimum wage a partisan issue, the verdict from everyday Louisianans is clear and bipartisan: it’s time to give workers a raise,” LBP Director Jan Moller said.

The data is included in a new report by David Gray, “Louisiana Needs a Higher Wage,” that also found that an $8.50 minimum wage would provide an immediate raise for 184,000 workers, create an estimated 1,400 new jobs and pump more than $187 million into Louisiana’s economy. Raising the wage to $10.10 per hour would have even bigger benefits for workers and the overall economy.

“This report should put to rest some of the tired misconceptions about minimum wage workers, “ Moller said. “A modest raise in the minimum wage would have huge benefits for Louisiana workers and would actually help create jobs as workers have bigger paychecks to spend throughout the economy.”

Many people assume that minimum wage workers are mainly teens working part-time jobs. But the reality is that teens make up less than 10 percent of the minimum wage workforce. Nearly one-third of all low-wage workers are over 40, and almost two-thirds work full-time hours.

Giving West Virginia’s Workers a Raise: Increasing the State Minimum Wage

On April 14, 2013, the West Virginia House adopted HCR 107, expressing support for President Obama’s proposal to increase the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour and index it to inflation, in
recognition of the decreasing value of the minimum wage and the idea that no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty.

Wages for West Virginia’s workers, and in particular low-wage workers, have eroded, not just in recent years, but over the past several decades. As fewer workers have enjoyed the fruits of a growing economy, problems like income inequality and poverty are growing problems in the state. While there is no one quick fix, raising the minimum wage and adjusting it over time are key to reversing the long-term erosion of low-wage worker’s earnings and combating inequality and poverty.

Raising the minimum wage to $10.10: A win-win for Rhode Island workers and the economy

Raising the minimum wage will improve the economic well-being of Rhode Islanders and strengthen the state’s economy. Giving the lowest paid workers a raise will improve their economic security and help curb the growth in income inequality, which has been significant in the Ocean State over the past three decades. Putting more money in the pockets of workers will also put more money in the cash registers of locals businesses and create jobs in Rhode Island.

Minimum wage workers are not able to meet their basic needs. The Rhode Island Standard of Need, a study that documents the cost of living in the Ocean State, shows that a worker earning the state’s current minimum wage of $7.75/hour falls short of meeting his or her basic expenses by $474 each month. Furthermore, while Rhode Island’s minimum wage is slightly higher than the federal minimum wage, it still leaves a family of three well below the federal poverty line ($16,120 versus $18,480).