Child Poverty

What Would Raising the Minimum Wage Mean for Children?

March 18, 2021 | National

Improved financial security, improved health, and improved lives: that’s just a few of the things raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 an hour can accomplish for grown ups. But what about the 15 million children who live with a worker earning under $15 an hour? What would raising the minimum wage mean for kids? 

A recent Center for American Progress (CAP) report suggests that raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, along with eliminating the subminimum wage for tipped workers and workers with disabilities means better outcomes for children, too. These gains include:

Important caveat: Wages alone can’t tell the full story of children and families living in poverty. As Shawn Fremstad, senior fellow at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, points out in a PolitiFact check of President Biden’s claim that the current minimum wage is a poverty wage, the poverty standard used by the White House is outdated. In other words, the poverty standard does not account for the cost of child care, health insurance, transportation, or other necessary goods and services because it reflects a 1950s and 1960s living standard. But no matter the metric used, raising wages is important for adults, important for children, and important for racial equity. The CAP report notes that half of all children living in households with a worker making under $15 an hour are Black or Latinx.

The Children’s Defense Fund has long made the case that raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour should be among the simple improvements and investments policymakers make to end child poverty now. And when “now” includes equitable recovery and relief from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s clear that raising the minimum wage is urgent and necessary. 

Unfortunately, a higher minimum wage did not make it into the American Recovery Act because the Senate parliamentarian ruled against its inclusion even though there was broad support that the provisions were allowable. However, the critical fight for a $15 minimum wage must continue. If Congress wants to get serious about improving outcomes for kids, it should enact the Raise the Wage Act of 2021, which calls for gradually raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 and phasing out the subminimum wage for tipped workers and people with disabilities. CDF is proud to join hundreds of organizations in calling for Congress to pass the Raise the Wage Act of 2021. 

Families, workers, and children need at least $15 an hour or more not because working is connected to their worth or that people have to work to feel worthy, but because it is the morally and economically humane thing to do for our nation. It’s an investment in our neighbors, our children, and our families–for now and for the future.