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Abstract

The belief that minimum-wage legislation helps the working poor is one reason for its continued popular support. The authors track the household incomes of low-wage workers and find that a radical transformation has occurred in the half century since the passage of the original minimum-wage law. Today most low-wage workers live in households well above the poverty line. Hence, those living in poverty will get only about 11 percent of the gains from the higher minimum-wage increase proposed in the Kennedy-Hawkins Bill. Low-wage workers in families with incomes three or more times the poverty line will get nearly 40 percent. Thus it is not clear that increases in the minimum wage make good policy even if no jobs are lost as a result.