Vast Majority of Low-Wage Workers in Pennsylvania Are Adults

April 29, 2019

Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf today highlighted research finding 89 percent of the workers benefiting from a $15 per hour minimum wage are adults and more than 18 percent are age 55 and older.

“The overwhelming majority of workers who benefit from finally raising Pennsylvania’s minimum wage are adults, particularly working women,” said Gov. Wolf. “All hardworking people, no matter their age, deserve a fair living wage. It’s time to stop the false myth that adults aren’t working in low-wage jobs. It’s a harmful stereotype that disrespects the nearly 2 million Pennsylvania workers who would get a boost in pay from a $15 minimum wage.”

The research refutes harmful stereotypes by making clear that hundreds of thousands of adults are stuck making poverty wages. Further, it throws caution at harmful assumptions about low-wage workers. By alleging that low-wage workers are mostly teenagers, opponents of raising the minimum wage distort the facts and malign hardworking teenagers. The reality is that many teenagers are helping support their families and themselves, including by saving for college and training after high school. All low-wage workers, no matter their age, would benefit from a minimum wage increase and deserve to be paid a living wage.

Key findings from the Keystone Research Center show the workers who would benefit from a $15 minimum wage:

• 89 percent are age 20 or older (1.8 million);
• 37 percent are age 40 or older (754,000 workers);
• 18 percent are age 55 or older (374,000 workers);
• 23 percent work full-time (1.1 million workers).

“Pennsylvania is lagging behind other states, including all our neighbors, in ensuring fair wages,” Gov. Wolf said. “When jobs don’t pay enough, workers can’t afford the basics – like food or housing. That hurts families, businesses and communities. Raising the wage floor rewards hard work, boosts local economies and saves tax dollars by helping people to work their way off of government programs.”

Gov. Wolf is proposing to raise the wage to $12 per hour on July 1 and $15 per hour by 2025, which is supported by 38 economists. As nearly 2 million workers earn more, they increase spending at local businesses, helping the local economy. Within two years, 70,000 adults will work their way off Medicaid, saving taxpayers over $150 million.

“It’s time to act to ensure working Pennsylvanians stop falling behind,” said Gov. Wolf. “The legislature must raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage.”

The commonwealth’s outdated minimum wage is $7.25, the lowest allowed by federal law. By trailing our neighbors, Pennsylvania workers earn less for the same work than those in West Virginia, Ohio, Maryland and all surrounding states.

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