An increase in the federal minimum wage to $10.10, as proposed by legislation pending in Congress, would reduce the poverty rate for same-sex male couples by 30 percent and for same-sex female couples by 25 percent, according to a study released on Thursday.
The study, conducted by the Williams Institute, an LGBT-oriented think tank that’s part of the University of California-Los Angeles School of Law, found that at least 20,000 individuals in same-sex relationships would be “lifted out of poverty” under the higher minimum wage.
“This study demonstrates that an increase in the federal minimum wage would go a long way toward reducing poverty among LGBT people,” said M.V. Lee Badgett, a Williams Institute Distinguished Scholar who co-authored the study.
Badgett and co-author Alyssa Schneebaum state in an eight-page report that the findings are based on data about same-sex and different-sex couples published in the 2012 American Community Survey, a nationally representative survey of more than three million people conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau.
The Williams Institute study “simulates the impact of an increase in the federal minimum wage from the current rate of $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour on the family incomes of same-sex couples and different-sex couples,” a statement accompanying the study says.
According to the authors, the study was limited to gay male and lesbian couples because U.S. Census data currently don’t include information about single gays and lesbians or transgender people.
A separate study released by the Williams Institute in the spring of 2013 analyzed data from other surveys that included single lesbians and gay men and found that similar to single heterosexuals, single gays and lesbians had a higher rate of poverty than same-sex couples.
The study includes these additional findings:
• Unmarried different-sex couples would see the greatest poverty reduction benefit from a higher minimum wage.
• Among same-sex couples, those who would gain the most from a higher minimum wage would be African Americans, couples with children, people with disabilities, people between the ages of 18 and 24, people without a high school degree, and those living in a rural area.
• A higher minimum wage would lower poverty rates “for the most vulnerable people in same-sex couples – particularly women and African Americans – as well as children in households led by same-sex couples.”
Badgett told the Blade that a “rough estimate” could be made on the impact of a $10.10 minimum wage on the estimated 9 million LGBT people in the United States – both couples and single people – based on the data analyzed in the current study on same-sex couples.
She said previous studies indicate LGBT people in the U.S. have an average poverty rate of 15 percent, which would mean about 1.3 million or more LGBT people are living in poverty.
“If the higher minimum wage reduced poverty as much as it does for people in couples in our new report, then about 24 percent would leave poverty, or more than 300,000 LGBT people,” Badgett said.
The Minimum Wage Fairness Act pending in the Senate calls for phasing in a $10.10 minimum wage over a two-year period. It currently has 33 co-sponsors and is expected to come up for a vote in the full Senate after Congress’s Easter recess, according to a spokesperson for Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the bill’s author and chief sponsor.
In the Republican-controlled House, GOP leaders have so far declined to release a similar bill from the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, where it has been stalled for about a year. The House bill, the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, has 195 sponsors, all of whom are Democrats.
Rep. Timothy Bishop (D-N.Y.) organized a discharge petition aimed at forcing the bill out of committee. So far 195 House members, all Democrats, have signed the petition. Under House rules, 218 signatures are needed to forcibly release a bill from committee.
President Obama has expressed strong support for the bill and has urged Congress to pass it.
The study can be seen here.