Texas Among the States that Would Gain the Most from a Minimum Wage Increase

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It's no surprise that, as one of the largest states in the nation, Texas has a high population of low-wage workers. But it turns out that Texas has a very high concentration of low-wage workers relative to the rest of the country too. These factors combined mean that Texas would gain tremendously from a minimum wage increase.

Oxfam America has mapped where low-wage workers are concentrated around the U.S. Based on that, they figured out how many workers would benefit by raising the minimum wage to $10.10.  The interactive map is broken out into congressional district to show members of Congress who could potentially make a difference in the lives of millions of low-wage workers just how much their districts would benefit.

Nationwide, more than 25 million workers would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10. In Texas, it would benefit almost 3 million workers – more than in any other state.  

Read about what Texas stands to gain from a minimum wage increase – and why Republican opposition to an increase is wearing thin – after the jump.The Oxfam map reveals some fascinating patterns in Texas. In the Houston-Dallas-San Antonio triangle, there is a light concentration of low-wage workers. But outside of these metro areas, wages drop dramatically. In fact, all of the congressional districts in South Texas, as well as several in rural areas farther north, have concentrations of low-wage workers over 24 percent.

Associated with the low wages in South Texas are the sorts of poverty indicators that one might expect. In many South Texas districts, the poverty rate is 20 percent among workers. And in all South Texas counties, as well as in the vast majority of Texas counties generally, over 30 percent of the population is under 200 percent of the poverty line.

Texas's 34th congressional district, which runs from just east of San Antonio to just west of Corpus Christi and down to Brownsville, has one of the highest concentrations of low-wage workers in the country – over 29.9 percent of the workers there stand to benefit from raising the minimum wage to $10.10.  They are disproportionately women – over one-third (34 percent) of the women in the 34th district stand to benefit from a minimum wage increase. Indeed, women are disproportionately represented among low-wage workers in Texas and around the country, where they make up 55 percent of the low-wage workforce.

Unfortunately, despite the potential gains, appetite for raising the minimum wage among Republicans is low enough to prevent any increases to the at a national level and in many states. A recent poll found that while 69 percent of Republicans say they would not be able to live off of the minimum wage, only 37 percent support an increase (compared to 74 percent of Democrats).

New data have also cast serious doubt on the main argument against the minimum wage – that it depresses job growth. Contrary to popular belief, recent data shows that in the 13 states that increased their minimum wages at the beginning of the year, job growth has actually been faster than in other states – around .85 percent, compared to the average among the other states of .61 percent. While it's impossible to determine whether the minimum wage increase actually caused the job growth, it's clear that the minimum wage isn't the job killer that Republicans make it out to be.

The recognition that the current minimum wage of $7.25 is unlivable – paired with the growing realization that raising it wouldn't actually slow job growth – is taking steam out of the opposition to the minimum wage. And as with so many other choices (ahem, Medicaid expansion), the longer Texas fights progress the farther it will fall behind.  

About Author

Emily Cadik

Emily is a Texas ex-pat and proud Longhorn living in Washington, DC, where she remains connected to the Lone Star State through her work on BOR and her enthusiasm for breakfast tacos. She works on affordable housing policy, and writes about health care, poverty and other social justice issues.

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