If voters decide to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour through a ballot initiative in 2016, the benefits could redound mostly to people who don’t live in D.C.
District, Measured—the blog of the D.C.’s Office of Revenue Analysis—explains in a recent post that the majority of D.C. workers who were paid $15 or less an hour lived “out-of-state” as of 2013. Using U.S. Census data from that year, ORA determined that 60 percent of employees who earned between $8 and $15 an hour were not residents of the District; the other 40 percent of such employees were. Notably, 70 percent of all people who worked in D.C. as of 2013 did not live here:
“Of the approximately sixty thousand under-$15/hour- workers who commute to the District, 63 percent come from the Maryland counties closest to D.C., especially Prince George’s county,” post author Jeffrey Wilkins, a city fiscal analyst writes. “Northern VA residents account for another 20 percent. The remainder commute from further-away places. This composition of residency is similar to the share among the higher income commuters.”
That the majority of D.C.’s low-wage workers live outside of the city may come as little surprise given the high housing costs many District residents have: 46 percent of metro-area renters spend more than 30 of their income on housing, according to a June 2015 report from Harvard. That means they’re “burdened” by such costs and can’t spend as much as they might have otherwise on groceries, child care, and entertainment—say nothing of savings. Increasing the minimum wage from its current $10.50 an hour (scheduled to rise to $11.50 in 2016) to $15 an hour might not change where D.C. workers choose to live, but it could very easily subsidize their transportation costs, making a big difference for those who live on slim margins.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery