Session: Minimum Wage Impacts on Poverty, Employment, and Health Coverage (Society for Social Work and Research 22nd Annual Conference - Achieving Equal Opportunity, Equity, and Justice)

36 Minimum Wage Impacts on Poverty, Employment, and Health Coverage

Thursday, January 11, 2018: 3:15 PM-4:45 PM
Marquis BR Salon 8 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
Cluster: Work, Family, and Family Policy
Symposium Organizer:
Jennifer Romich, University of Washington
Julia R. Henly, PhD, University of Chicago
In the last five years, over 40 counties and states have passed minimum wage laws requiring wages as high as $15 per hour. Overall, 61 percent of the U.S. population now lives in a state, county, or city subject to a higher-than-federal minimum wage, and more increases seem likely over the next few years. The scope and extent of increases to minimum wage laws at various levels suggest this is an important area of policy change affecting the working poor. Local and state legislation, and the movement behind them, are now ahead of and putting pressure on, national policy makers to increase the federal minimum wage. The issue is of particular interest to social workers, who often work directly with clients and coworkers affected by minimum wage laws or advocate in coalition with the labor movement and other social justice advocates for policies that reduce poverty and inequality.

This symposium will review current evidence about the benefits and potential costs of increasing the minimum wage in cities and states across the U.S, with a focus on impacts on low-wage workers and their families.

The first presentation will examine whether and how a higher minimum wage could reduce poverty. Simulations of minimum wage amounts on individual family budgets show how households can exit poverty by earning a higher wage in conjunction with the current means-tested safety net. A second simulation process shows how a national $12/hour wage plus select investments in job creation can reduce poverty at low public cost. The second paper will present initial findings from the Seattle Minimum Wage Study, a multi-method examination of the effects of the Seattle wage mandates which started going into effect in 2015; findings will cover the first three increases which have already raised the hourly wage floor $15 for some employees of large employers. The final paper will provide findings from a prospective study of how raising the minimum wage to $12/hr. in Colorado will affect health insurance access among low-wage workers who currently qualify for Medicaid through the ACA expansion.. Discussion will include examination of how proposed reforms of the ACA subsidies and Medicaid expansion would impact workers as their wages increase to minimums of $12-$15/hour.

The discussant is an expert in low-wage work. We anticipate having time for audience discussion on social work's role in advocating for increases in the minimum wage while also seeking protections for those who may be most vulnerable to unintended negative consequences of these policy changes.

* noted as presenting author
Coupling a Federal Minimum Wage Hike with Public Investments to Make Work Pay and Reduce Poverty
Jennifer Romich, University of Washington; Heather Hill, PhD, University of Washington
“We Want to Pay Well, but…” for-Profit and Non-Profit Employers Implement Seattle's $15 Minimum Wage Ordinance
Cynthia Moreno, BA, University of Washington; Seattle Minimum Wage Study, University of Washington
Healthcare Coverage Among Minimum Wage Workers in Colorado
Jennifer C. Greenfield, PhD, University of Denver
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