A $12 Minimum Wage in Missouri: New Report Shows That Every County Will Benefit From Raising the Minimum Wage

This November, Missouri voters will vote on whether to increase the state’s minimum wage to $12 by 2023. If the measure passes, approximately 677,000 workers across the state would see their incomes rise to meet the increasing cost of living. That represents 25 percent of all working Missourians.

Working families in every single county in Missouri, regardless of population size and density, would benefit. Even in the smallest and most rural counties in the state, hundreds of workers’ wages would rise, helping to provide stability to their families and households. Missouri would join dozens of jurisdictions across the country in raising wages. The appendix includes a chart that shows an estimate of how many workers in each county will benefit.

Workers in Every Single County Across the State—677,000 Working Missourians in Total—Would Benefit From a $12 Minimum Wage

Missouri voters will decide in November whether to increase the state minimum wage to $12 by 2023. Analysis by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) of Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that if voters approve the initiative, 677,000 workers, living in each of Missouri’s 114 counties, plus the City of St. Louis, will see the benefits of a higher wage.[i] This higher minimum wage would allow workers across the entire state to cope with the rising cost of basic necessities, such as housing, food, transportation, and healthcare.[ii] See the appendix for a complete list of counties and estimated number of workers affected.

As Table 1 shows, workers who would benefit represent nearly a quarter of all working Missourians. By 2023, each worker will earn an average of $1,485 more annually. The additional income would not only help working families throughout the state, it would also benefit small businesses and Missouri’s broader economy. Research shows that higher wages lead to increased spending, which, in turn, has the effect of boosting the demand for goods and services[iii] and keeping money circulating in the economy—creating a virtuous cycle that benefits a broad constituency.[iv]

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A Growing Number of Jurisdictions Are Enacting Minimum Wage Increases, Reflecting Continued Concerns With Low Wages and Support for Bold Change

With job growth skewed towards low-paying occupations over the past decade, there has been growing national momentum for action to raise the minimum wage. Although the U.S. median household income is slowly climbing from the depths of the Great Recession,[v] hourly wages continue to stay flat or decline for most of the labor force, even amidst the economic recovery and a full employment economy. The worsening prospects and opportunities for low-wage workers have prompted a record number of cities, counties, and states to enact higher minimum wage rates for their residents, often with overwhelming support from voters.

Since November 2012, an estimated 19 million workers throughout the country have earned wage increases through a combination of states and cities raising their minimum wages; executive orders by city, state, and federal leaders; and individual companies raising their pay scales.[vi] Of those workers, nearly 10 million will receive gradual raises to $15 per hour.[vii]  A growing number of states—including New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Maryland—are currently considering minimum wage legislation.[viii] In addition, more than two-dozen cities and counties from Washington, D.C., to Minneapolis, to Flagstaff, Arizona, have approved higher minimum wages or have campaigns underway.[ix]

The trend in localities and states pushing for higher minimum wage rates is likely to continue as wages decline or stagnate, inequality worsens or remains high, and Congress fails to take bold action to ensure that hard-working individuals can make ends meet.


Raising the minimum wage is one of main tools that states and cities across the country are using to help working families meet the rising costs of basic necessities. It is also sound economic policy for combating poverty and addressing persistent racial and gender discrimination in pay. Higher wages will help invigorate local economies by giving small businesses a more level playing field. The state of Missouri only stands to benefit from this opportunity to help workers make ends meet and alleviate the especially intractable economic barriers that continue to harm women and people of color in this country.

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[i].         NELP analysis of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2016 Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW), the Economic Policy Institute and the Current Population Survey. Estimates are not reported for any counties in which private sector wage data are unavailable in the QCEW. Statewide figure provided by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). State and county estimates of affected workers include both directly and indirectly affected workers. Indirectly affected workers have a wage rate just above the new minimum wage (between the new minimum wage and the new minimum wage plus the dollar amount of the increase in the previous year’s minimum wage). They will receive a raise as employer pay scales are adjusted upward to reflect the new minimum wage. Indirectly affected workers include workers projected to make less than $12.85 in 2023. Consistent with statewide estimates made by EPI, wages are adjusted to reflect “natural” nominal wage growth. For 2016–2019, a rate equal to the average growth rate of the wages of the bottom 20 percent of wage earners in Missouri between 2014 and 2016 is assumed: 2.91 percent. For wage growth after 2019, the assumption is a growth equal to inflation plus 0.5 percent in each year, as projected by the CBO—a total of 3.15 percent in each year. The projected share and number of affected workers in each county is based on the QCEW reported mean weekly wage and an assumed 74 percent ratio between the standard deviation and the reported mean. Projections of hourly wages based on work hours for workers in the lowest wage quintile as estimated by EPI in



[ii].         U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 Census, Annual Estimates of the Resident Population: Apr. 1, 2010 to July 1, 2017; American FactFinder, https://factfinder.census.gov.


[iii].        Patrick Reimherr, “Higher Wages, a Stronger Bottom Line and Job Growth,” U.S. Department of Labor: Blog (Aug. 1, 2014), https://blog.dol.gov/2014/08/01/higher-wages-a-stronger-bottom-line-and-job-growth.


[iv].        International Labour Organization, “Can Minimum Wages Help Rebalance the Economy?” (Aug. 12, 2013),  http://www.ilo.org/newyork/voices-at-work/WCMS_219658/index.htm.


[vi].        National Employment Law Project, Fight for $15: Four Years, $62 Billion, Dec. 2016, https://www.nelp.org/wp-content/uploads/Fight-for-15-Four-Years-62-Billion-in-Raises.pdf.

[vii].       Ibid.

[viii].      National Employment Law Project, “State Campaigns,” Raise The Minimum Wage, https://raisetheminimumwage.com/state-campaigns/.

[ix].         National Employment Law Project, “City Campaigns,” Raise The Minimum Wage, https://raisetheminimumwage.com/city-campaigns/.

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