Over 250,000 Illinois Workers Earn Less than the Minimum Wage

Frank Manzo IV is the Policy Director of the Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI). Visit ILEPI at www.illinoisepi.org or follow ILEPI on Twitter @illinoisEPI.

Analysis of new data from the Current Population Survey (conducted jointly by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau) reveals that 4.8 percent of the Illinois workforce earns less than $8.25 an hour, the legal minimum wage for workers aged 18 years or older in firms with 4 or more employees. In total, an estimated 264,508 workers earned less than the minimum wage in 2014. Among sub-minimum wage earners (SMWEs), hourly pay averages just $6.66, or $1.59 per hour below the minimum wage floor. This translates into an economic loss of $1,654 over the year for part-time employees who worked 20 hours per week in 2014.

While many of these workers are under 18 years old or are employed by small businesses excluded from the minimum wage law, many others are the victims of wage theft. A 2009 study by researchers at the National Employment Law Project, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Cornell University, and the University of California – Los Angeles found that 26 percent of low-wage, “front-line” workers were paid less than the legally-required minimum wage. The highest violation rates occurred in apparel and textile manufacturing, private households, and personal and repair services. Similarly, in a survey of 57 car washes in the City of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that 76 percent of hand car wash workers earned below the state’s minimum wage and 13 percent earned less than $2 per hour.

Minimum wage theft occurs for many reasons. First, there could be information problems in that employers may not realize that their practices are depriving workers of owed income or that they have misclassified workers as temporary or contingent workers. Second, tipped employees may not be compensated by their employer enough to close the minimum wage gap when the tips fall short. Third, business practices that elevate short-term profits above long-term profitability put downward pressures on wages. Fourth, economically inefficient social issues such as racial, gender, sexual orientation, and religious discrimination could also be factors. Continue reading “Over 250,000 Illinois Workers Earn Less than the Minimum Wage”

ICYMI: ILEPI on Chicago Tonight Discussing Minimum Wage

Frank Manzo IV is the Policy Director of the Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI). Visit ILEPI at www.illinoisepi.org or follow ILEPI on Twitter @illinoisEPI.


On May 20, 2014, ILEPI Policy Director Frank Manzo IV was a panelist on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight with Ted Dabrowski discussing the pros and cons of raising the minimum wage in Illinois. Manzo supported raising the minimum wage to $10.00 per hour while Dabrowski has endorsed abolishing Illinois’ minimum wage altogether. Here is a link to the segment, and below is additional information on the effects of raising the minimum wage in Illinois.


Should we raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour?

The Illinois economy is still recovering from the Great Recession. The unemployment rate is about one and a half percentage points lower today than it was one year ago. But the recovery has seen an ongoing rise in income inequality in the labor market. To partially offset the income gap– independent of any action (or nonaction) at the federal level– Illinois should raise the minimum wage to $10 an hour.

In 2012, 1 million of the state’s 6 million workers earned less than $10 an hour. Of these one million low-wage earners, 57 percent were female, 45 percent were nonwhite, and 60 percent worked full-time (35 hours a week or more). In a study co-authored with the University of Illinois, ILEPI found that raising the minimum wage to $10 would increase worker income by $2 billion for these low-wage workers and lift 60,000 to 100,000 Illinois residents above the poverty line, reducing reliance on government programs and lowering costs to taxpayers. These workers would then spend that new income back in the economy, resulting in $7 billion in new economic output, and either a very small drop or a very small gain in employment. Thus, in Illinois, a state where the cost of living is higher than the national average, a raise to $10 would be beneficial to the economy. See the full report here [pdf].

Why does the minimum wage have a stimulative impact? What about economic theory which says it reduces jobs?

We know that reality is, unfortunately, far more complex than economic theory. Research shows little to no discernible impact of the minimum wage on employment. Most estimates on the supposed reduction in jobs are between zero percent and less than a fraction of a percent— it would be a false representation of economic research to suggest otherwise. We also know that poorer Americans spend higher shares of their incomes in the economy than richer Americans. One 2009 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago found that “spending increases substantially after a minimum wage hike.” For every $1 increase in the minimum wage, families with a minimum wage earner raise spending by $744 to $869 per year.

Isn’t the minimum wage a job killer for small businesses? Continue reading “ICYMI: ILEPI on Chicago Tonight Discussing Minimum Wage”