A report released by New Jersey Policy Perspective indicates that raising the mandatory minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2023 would benefit 1.2 million workers throughout New Jersey and boost the state’s economy by $4.5 billion.
Brandon McKoy, NJPP’s government and public affairs director who wrote report, said raising the minimum wage to $15 over five years would diminish income inequality and wage inequality in the state.
“Raising the minimum wage to $15 is a very sensible policy approach to dealing with the level of poverty we see in New Jersey,” McKoy said in a Thursday news conference. “The benefit of raising the minimum wage beyond economics is that there are a lot of positive health and social effects as well."
NJPP is a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to expanding economic opportunities for New Jersey residents.
“There is a lot of research that shows that raising the minimum wage leads to a reduction in domestic violence and child abuse as well as teen pregnancy rates,” McKoy said. “And this is in addition to a ton of health studies showing a clear link between low-income and health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, infant mortality, negative things like that. So, we know that increasing the minimum wage can have a positive effect on public health and it goes beyond immediate dollars.”
NJPP’s study found that 92 percent of workers who would be affected by this increase are over the age of 20. McKoy said that 52 percent of workers affected by such a boost in wages would be women and 56 percent members of minority groups.
“Today, there is no part of the state where a single worker with no dependents can make a living on a wage of less than $15 an hour,” McKoy said. “They would have a very hard time meeting the most basic of needs. In Ocean City-metro area, you would have to make $15.15 cents all the way to the Bergen/Passaic area where you would have to make $20.83 just to get by and afford all of your daily needs.”
The NJPP’s report said that raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2023 primarily would affect economic sectors including retail, health care, food & drink, manufacturing, waste-management and administrative services sectors.
Tsedeye Gebreselassie, senior attorney at the National Employment Law Center, said the state may also need to consider its minimum wage laws in response to New York and other surrounding states already working on increasing minimum wages.
“New Jersey, by raising its minimum wage – hopefully – will join 29 states plus Washington D.C. in raising its minimum wage above the federal level of $7.25,” Gebreselassie said.
NJPP said New Jersey ranks seventh in the nation in income inequality, with the top 5 percent of households in the state enjoying average incomes almost 16 times higher than the bottom 20 percent of households.
“New Jersey spends an estimated $726 million a year on basic safety net programs for working families,” NJPP said. “This cost estimate is a significant undercount, since it includes Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families but not the state’s share of the Earned Income Tax Credit, the tax credit for working families who aren’t paid enough to make ends meet. While a robust safety net is important to assist all families who have fallen on hard times, the state has a critical role to play in ensuring that these programs aren’t subsidizing profitable corporations that are paying poverty wages. In a state with significant budget problems, $726 million is a serious amount of money that could be spent on other priorities and public services.”