Children’s Defense Fund: Increase the Minimum Wage to Lower Child Poverty

by Yannet Lathrop

At a recent unveiling of a new report on child poverty, the Children’s Defense Fund made a set of recommendations, including an increase in the minimum wage, to reduce child poverty by 60 percent with minimal additional cost to taxpayers.

According to the report, raising the minimum wage to $10.10 would immediately reduce child poverty between 4 and 8 percent, lifting 400,000 children above poverty, and generating $15.2 million in new revenue to state and federal governments from an increase in income taxes and reduced use of public assistance.

A higher increase in the minimum wage – such as $12.50 at the federal level, a rate that garners overwhelming public support according to a recent poll – could have an even larger impact, bringing much needed relief to more working families whose current earnings keep them in or near poverty despite their hard work.

Together with other policy recommendations – including investing more on housing, food and child care assistance, as well as expanding the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits – raising the minimum wage would boost 6.6 million children above the poverty line, and improve the economic prospects of an additional 4 million children.

Over the long term, these investments would not only benefit children living in poverty right now, but also brighten their economic prospects as adults and decrease the chances their own children will also grow up in poverty.

Congress has a choice to make: Invest in the economic health of the nation’s poorest families now at minimal expense, by implementing commonsense approaches such as raising the minimum wage – or face a much larger price tag in the future, as state and federal governments scramble to provide support for families that continue to fall behind despite their efforts to climb out of poverty.