As Movement For Higher Pay Grows, Report Examines Who Makes Less Than $15 in the U.S.

More than Half of African-Americans, Nearly 60 percent of Latinos are Paid Less than $15 an Hour; Women Over- Represented in Lowest-Paid Jobs

New York, NY – As workers across industries prepare for a historic day of strikes and protests for higher wages, a report by the National Employment Law Project (NELP) shows that nearly half, (42 percent) of workers in the US are paid less than $15 an hour.

The report, The Growing Movement for $15, which comes days before adjunct professors, fast-food, home care, child care, retail and airport workers are expected to protest in the largest-ever national mobilization for higher pay, provides comprehensive wage and demographic figures on the 42 percent of the U.S. workforce that earns less than $15 an hour.

The report finds that six in 10 of the largest occupations with median wages less than $15—including restaurant jobs, retail jobs and personal care jobs—are among the occupations projected to add the most jobs in coming years, shedding light on why the “Fight for $15” has spread quickly from the fast-food industry to include workers from various sectors of the economy.

“Low-wage occupations in sectors such as retail, home care and restaurants are among the fastest-growing in the country,” said Christine Owens, Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project. “If we want an economy that is balanced and shares prosperity fairly, we must raise wages in these sectors so that they can serve as the cornerstones to rebuilding our nation’s disappearing middle class.”

NELP’s analysis of recent wage data provides breakdowns by age, gender, race, occupation and industry. It finds that nearly half (46.6%) of workers paid less than $15 an hour are 35-years-old or older. More than half of African-American workers and close to 60 percent of Latino workers make less than $15, and more than 90 percent of workers in fast-food, child care and home care are paid less than $15 an hour—jobs that are overwhelmingly filled by women.

“The idea that low-paid service jobs are only a stepping stone for teenagers or young people starting out in the workforce is plainly wrong, said Irene Tung, senior policy researcher at the National Employment Law Project. “Many people are spending decades working in jobs that pay too little to survive—and the people who fill these jobs are overwhelmingly workers of color and women. The prevalence of low wages in many of our economy’s growth sectors is a national crisis, and one that industry leaders in these sectors must take greater steps to address.”

Since the movement began in November 2012, wage increases to $15 have gained momentum in the public and private sectors, ranging from minimum wage laws and executive orders, to collective bargaining agreements and pay adjustments by individual employers.

Seattle, SeaTac, WA and San Francisco have all adopted $15 minimum wages, and campaigns are underway in at least eight more cities – including Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and New York City – and four more states – Oregon, Massachusetts, New York and Delaware – to increase minimum wages to at least $15. Private sector employers, such as insurance giant Aetna, the university-affiliated hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine, and the University of Rochester, have also raised their base pay to approximately $15 per hour.

“By standing up, workers have turned $15 wage from an aspiration into a reality. Both business and government leaders have adopted wages of $15 or more and are incorporating other workforce investments, such as paid sick days, into their public policy proposals or business plans,” said Yannet Lathrop, researcher at the National Employment Law Project. “The most rigorous economic research and the experiences of localities and employers that are transitioning to $15 wages suggest that better pay in the affected jobs is not only feasible—it’s beneficial to workers, businesses and the economy.”

Contact: Emma Stieglitz,,
(646) 200-5307
Read the full report: The Growing Movement for $15

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