The minimum wage and economic insecurity in Tacoma

Fact Sheet | June 30, 2015 | By Marilyn Watkins

Executive Summary

Low wages undermining Tacoma’s families, women, people of color

  • 5% of Tacoma families receiving food stamps had at least one member working, and 25% had 2 or more members working.[1]
  • Of low-wage workers in Washington: 29% are parents with children at home, and 46% have attended college. They are 55% White; 24% Latino; 21% Black, Asian, and other ethnicities.[2]
  • 6 in 10 minimum wage workers in Washington are women.[3] Women comprise a majority of low-wage workers in food service, accommodations, child care, and residential care facilities.
  • 49% of Tacoma single moms with kids at home live below the federal poverty level.[4]

Studies show Tacoma’s existing minimum wage falls short

Living wage studies for Tacoma-Pierce County suggest $11.00/hour is necessary for basic support of a single person working full time.[5] However, a household of one adult and one preschool child requires between $21.21 and $24.06/hour – about $4,000 per month – to meet basic needs.[6]

39,000 workers in Tacoma earn less than $16.00 per hour and would experience wage gains as a result of a $15.00 minimum wage.[7]

tacoma min wage graph

Click to embiggen

Profiles of people working in Pierce County’s low-wage industries[8]

Limited-Service (Fast Food) Restaurants

  • 8,000 people in Pierce County are employed in fast food establishments.
  • 60% are female; 50% are over age 25, including 26% over age 35; 13% are under age 19.
  • Average monthly wages in 2013 were $1,348 for all workers, and $2,374 for men aged 45-54 (the highest-earning demographic group).

Full-Service Restaurants

  • 7,500 people in Pierce County are employed in full-service restaurants.
  • 54% are female; 71% are over age 25, including 40% over age 35; 4% are under age 19.
  • Average monthly earnings (including reported tips)in 2013 were $1,864 for men and $1,713 for women ($2216 for men aged 45-54, the highest earning demographic group).

Drinking Establishments (Bars)

  • 600 people in Pierce County are employed in bars.
  • 55% are women; 54% are over age 35; 46% are ages 21-34.
  • Average monthly earnings (including reported tips) in 2013 were $1,600 for men and $1,527 for women ($1,747 for women aged 45-54, the highest earning demographic group).

Traveler Accommodations

  • 1400 people in Pierce County are employed in hotels, motels, and similar businesses.
  • 61% are women; 83% are over age 25, including 59% over age 25.
  • Average monthly earnings (including reported tips) in 2013 were $1999 for men and $1835 for women.

[1] US Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2013.

[2] Based on analysis of workers directly and indirectly affected by raising minimum wage to $12. David Cooper, Raising the Minimum Wage to $12 by 2020 Would Lift Wages for 35 Million American Workers, forthcoming, Economic Policy Institute, http://www.epi.org/publication/its-time-to-raise-the-minimum-wage/#data-tables-characteristics-by-state6.

[3] National Women’s Law Center, “Women and the Minimum Wage, State by State,” May 2015, http://www.nwlc.org/resource/women-and-minimum-wage-state-state.

[4] US Census Bureau, American Community Survey 2013.

[5] The University of Washington’s Self-Sufficiency Standard estimates a minimum living wage of $11.06, or $1,947 per month, http://www.selfsufficiencystandard.org/pubs.html. MIT’s 2014 Living Wage Calculation estimated a single person would require at least a wage of $10.29, Dr. Amy K. Glasmeier and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, http://livingwage.mit.edu/counties/53053.

[6] According to the two calculators above and the Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator for 2013, http://www.epi.org/resources/budget/.

[7] Economic Opportunity Institute estimate based on 2014 occupational employment and wage estimates for Pierce County from Washington Employment Security Department, https://fortress.wa.gov/esd/employmentdata/reports-publications/occupational-reports/occupational-employment-and-wage-estimates; adjusted for percentage of Pierce County jobs in Tacoma by sector, from US Census Bureau, Center for Economic Studies, http://onthemap.ces.census.gov/ (2011 data).

[8] Economic Opportunity Institute analysis of US Census Bureau data, Quarterly Workforce Indicators Explorer Application (qwiexplorer.ces.census.gov), accessed June 2015 (3rd quarter 2013 most recent data available).


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