Dear Editor:

Voters overwhelmingly chose to raise the state minimum wage to $11 per hour by 2021. Will this bring people out of poverty? Who will gain the most? What will this change for Cleburne County? The poverty line for a two-person household is $16,460. With the current minimum wage, a full-time minimum wage employee can expect to earn $17,680 each year. Based on estimates from the Economic Policy Institute, a modest standard of living in Cleburne County for one adult and one child is $46,363. Simply put, in 2018 living on $8.50 an hour is barely enough to make ends meet. In 2021, however, this same full-time minimum wage employee can expect to earn $22,800. In this example of a two-person household, families will be more than $6,000 above the poverty line. As a county, some estimates show that 30.6% of our workforce (2,086 people) will experience an increase in wage. Those who will experience the greatest increases are females, workers age 20+, African Americans, and married parents. Each of these groups will see earnings increase by more than average over the course of the change. What does minimum wage look like from the other side? Wage data shows that only about 6.8% of workers in Arkansas are at or below minimum wage, showing that perhaps the gains aren’t as widespread as previously thought. Nationally, workers age 25 and younger represent about half of the workers earning minimum wage or less. Additionally, workers who have never married are three times more likely to earn minimum wage or less, compared to their married counterparts. This likely means that most minimum wage workers either aren’t the primary earner for their household or that their household is only themselves. Seattle also offers powerful insight into raising minimum wage: raising the wage by 15% ($11 to $13) resulted in a 7% decline of jobs (6,540) and hours dropped by about 9%. Seattle low-wage workers earned about $125 less per month as a result of the minimum wage. Over the next 3 years, Arkansas’ minimum wage will rise by 22%--more than Seattle’s. Will Cleburne County experience what Seattle did? Only time will tell. The risks seem too great.

Parker Sherwood

Rose Bud