Study: Minimum wage of $10.10/hour would benefit 21% of workers here

About one in five workers in Lancaster County would benefit from raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, a new study shows.

About one in five workers in Lancaster County would benefit from raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, a new study shows.

That 21 percent amounts to 49,099 workers here, according to the Keystone Research Center study.

The research is being cited by a labor and community coalition, Raise the Wage PA, which will hold a rally in Penn Square at noon Thursday.

Lancaster County rates somewhat worse than the statewide figure of 19 percent and the urban-area figure of 18 percent, says the study.

The study, “Living on the Edge: Where Very Low-Wage Workers Live in Pennsylvania,” notes the minimum wage in Pennsylvania has been $7.25 since 2009.

That’s when the federal minimum wage was last boosted.

Today, 21 states have or soon will have a higher minimum wage than does the Keystone state, including neighbors Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia and Maryland.

Some 1.07 million workers in Pennsylvania would benefit from a $10.10 minimum wage, concluded the center, a coalition member.

Map: Where Wage Hike Would Have the Most Impact

The tally includes those who’d benefit directly (i.e., workers earning less than $10.10).

It also includes those who’d benefit indirectly (i.e., workers earning slightly more than $10.10), the center believes.

The employers of the latter group would likely give them a raise as they adjust pay scales upward to reflect the new minimum wage, says the center.

On a county by county basis, the share of workers to be helped by the $10.10 minimum wage would vary substantially.

As many as 27 percent of the workers in Mercer County would get a lift while as few as 13 percent of the workers in Chester and Montgomery counties would.

Yet even at the lowest impact percentage, a $10.10 minimum wage still would affect roughly one in eight workers.

“Low-wage workers are everywhere in the economy,” said Mark Price, a labor economist at the center.

“They’re not just concentrated in Philadelphia. They represent a substantial share of the work force,” he said Wednesday.

Though some state lawmakers from rural districts have labeled the minimum wage issue a big-city problem, the figures show otherwise, Price observed.

The percentage of workers to benefit in rural counties, 23 percent, is noticeably greater than the 18 percent in urban counties, a designation that include Lancaster County, he said.

That could be due to the lack of competition among employers in rural areas for low-wage workers, said Price.

(Whether a county is deemed urban or rural is determined by population density. Urban counties, such as Lancaster County, have at least 254 residents per square mile.)

What explains the large percentage of workers who’d stand to gain from a $10.10 minimum wage?

In recent years, the minimum wage has failed to keep pace with inflation or productivity growth, the study says.

Inflation-adjusted earnings of very-low wage earners have fallen 6 percent since 1979.

The center argues that raising the minimum wage modestly would give very low wage earners more purchasing power without causing job losses in that category, despite what opponents of a higher minimum wage have contended.

The study is based on the U.S. Census Bureau data and other sources.



Tim Mekeel is the Lancaster Newspapers business editor. He can be reached at tmekeel@lnpnews.com or (717) 481-6030. You can also follow @tmekeel_lnpnews on Twitter.