The $15 per hour minimum wage — advocated for by progressives across the country — could be too little for Connecticut residents to live on, according to a new report.
Alliance for a Just Society — a national network of 15 advocacy groups focused on combating racial, social and economic inequity — published the report Tuesday as part of its Job Gap Economic Prosperity Series, an annual state-by-state examination of the conditions for working families across the country.
This year’s Connecticut report found that the state’s $9.15 minimum wage is significantly lower than the rate the Alliance for a Just Society calculated a single adult would need to live on in Connecticut: $19.03.
The report defined the second figure, the living wage, as the minimum hourly wage necessary to satisfy “basic needs and maintain some ability to deal with emergencies and plan ahead.”
Report author and Alliance for a Just Society Policy Analyst Allyson Fredericksen said that while $19.03 per hour may seem high, it would not pay for much beyond the essentials.
“The living wage really is what it takes for, in this case, a single adult to make ends meet,” Fredericksen said. “That $19.03 is not really an extravagant wage.”
To calculate the living wage, Alliance for a Just Society aggregated the cost of a number of basic necessities, including food, housing and utilities, transportation and health care. The report’s computations also accounted for annual savings, both state and federal taxes, and a percentage of income to be set aside each year for emergencies.
By the report’s calculations, employees earning the current minimum wage would have to work 83.2 hours a week to earn as much as they would if they worked a 40-hour week at $19.03 per hour.
“We think right now that the federal minimum wage needs to be raised to $15 an hour,” Associate Director of Alliance for a Just Society Jill Reese said.
The living wage differs drastically from state to state, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s national Living Wage Calculator — an online tool that uses geographically specific expenditure data to estimate the living wage in different parts of the country.
Fredericksen said the minimum wage in Connecticut should be above $15 per hour. Some experts, however, said governments must do more than raise the minimum wage to ensure that working people have enough money to survive.
Former Director of the National Economic Council Gene Sperling LAW ’85 said that protecting and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Refundable Child Tax Credit — two mechanisms the government uses to offer tax refunds to low-income individuals — are important ways to increase the amount of money people with jobs ultimately bring home.
“The battle for the living wage is a war that needs to be fought on many fronts,” Sperling said. “The minimum wage is absolutely critical, but you’ve also got to fight the battle on several different fronts at once.”
At $9.15 an hour, Connecticut currently has the nation’s fifth-highest minimum wage.