Adding context to a minimum wage proposal

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The reason we perform fact checks is to hold public officials accountable and to ensure that they are looking out for their constituency. Once we find the truth, our next step is to turn to the communities that are most impacted by the fact check. By providing citizens with the correct information, they can see the true impact of our work.

The Observatory fact-checked Mark Harris, the Democratic candidate for District 18 in the Wisconsin State Senate, who claimed that 50 to 60 percent of a previous year’s average hourly wage would be around $9. We rated this claim as mostly true. However, the formula Harris’ used would actually result in a wage between $10 and $12.50 which is a considerable increase from the current minimum wage of $7.25.

If Harris’ plan is enacted and he raise the wage to the figures we calculated, it could have a significant impact on people who earn minimum wage. For a more in depth look into how a wage increase would affect a community, we will look at the county of Fond du Lac and what the increase would mean to the people there.

Fond du Lac County has a population of 101,633 and a median household income of $54,529. The average hourly wage for the Fond du Lac metropolitan area is $20.06 an hour and there are 45,900 people employed. Of the total households in the county, 66 percent are family households and 28 percent of all households have at least one child. Keep these demographics in mind as we look at the living wages and how they relate to actual wages.

An independent living wage calculator shows the living wage, poverty wage and minimum wage for various household demographics.

Living wage is defined asthe wage needed to cover basic family expenses (basic needs budget) plus all relevant taxes,” and “the living wage calculation does not include publicly provided income or housing assistance.” Poverty wage is defined as the hourly wage that would equate to a yearly income falling at or below the poverty line for a certain household size. Minimum wage is simply the least that an employer is allowed to pay a worker per hour and it is decided on a federal level.

For a single adult in Fond du Lac County, the living wage is $9.75.. There are at least 2,150 people whose average wages fall short of this living wage for a single adult home. If we look at a family home of two working parents and one child, the minimum living wage is $12.55. There are at least 16,940 people whose average wages are less than this. Raising the minimum wage to a threshold between $10 and $12.50 would lift all of these people above the poverty wage. This would significantly impact the standard of living in the county as more people find that their minimum wage is enough to meet a living wage.

While raising most of the population to a living wage would be the best result of Harris’ plan, the bottom level result should be to raise wages to ensure that minimum wage is at least higher than poverty wage for all demographic groups. Harris’ plan would result in wages that are higher than poverty wages for all families except for two adults (one working) and three children. Other than that group, a minimum wage raise to $10-$12.50 will ensure that nobody finds themselves with wages that are below the poverty wage, which will prevent people from falling into poverty, will lessen the burden on the local and state government to provide financial aid.

Related Fact Check: How will the Minimum wage change?

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