When Living Wage Is Minimum Wage

Ben Casselman:

Finding information on who would be affected by an increase in the minimum wage is surprisingly difficult. The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes an annual report that gives a breakdown of minimum-wage earners by age, sex, education and other factors. But the report does not distinguish, for example, between a 22-year-old single mom trying to feed her kids and a 22-year-old college student working a few shifts to keep her debt manageable.

Worse, the official report provides no information on people who earn just above the minimum wage — even though that group dwarfs minimum-wage workers. To learn more about this larger group, we have to look at the Current Population Survey, a monthly review conducted by the Census Bureau, which allows for a much more detailed analysis of the low-wage workforce.

Good data and good data analysis may not always provide us with answers, but it will always expand the conversation.