Two things (at least 2) happen when your income increases: (1) the payroll taxes owed increases and (2) government benefits tend to decrease because they are "means tested". This means the amount a person receives depends on the level of income earned AND the benefit decreases as income increases.
I high-lighted the "Single Mother with Two Children" category because these families tend to have higher poverty rates than the other categories. And we care about the poor, right?
The first table shows the minimum wage at its current level of $7.25. The wage earner would pay no income tax on that level of income, but pay $1,154 in mandatory payroll taxes (6.2% in Social Security and 1.45% in Medicare tax(es)). They would receive tax credits (a "refundable tax credit") in the amounts of $5,460 and $1,812. They would also be eligible for $2,898 in a food stamp (SNAP) benefit.
If you take the persons total income, subtract payroll taxes, then add in the tax credits and the SNAP benefit, their effective "take home pay" is $24,069.
Using this number we can calculate the "effective hourly wage rate" ($24,069/2,080 hours (40 hours per week times 52 weeks) or $11.57 per hour in wages/tax credits and benefits. Remember that number.
|Source: Economix at The New York Times|
But what happens to the single mother's effective wage rate when the minimum wage increases to $10.10 per hour (a 39% increase)? Will here total compensation rise by that much? See the 2nd table.
Wage income increases. Payroll taxes increase (the more you earn, the more you pay). Income tax at that level of income is still $0. However, there are changes in the mix of tax credits and SNAP benefits. On net, those are LOWER than they were before.
When all totaled together NET INCOME is now $28,200. Certainly higher than it was before, but how much higher? As much as the minimum wage increase, as I think most people would believe?
If we divide $28,200 by 2080 hours worked in a year we get an effective wage of $13.56.
If we compare the change AFTER we include all the relevant numbers we can see that the single mom with two kids is making $13.56 per hour instead of $11.57.
That is an increase of 17%. Far cry from the 39% increase in the minimum wage.
So, when discussing the minimum wage and the magnitude of help it will give a single mother, we need to include more than the nominal increase in it.
It tells only half the story. BUT a hardworking single mother will probably already be able to tell you that things are not always as they seem.