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03/17/2021

Most Americans support raising minimum wage — and want companies to take a stand

Marianne Wilson
Editor-in-Chief
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Eight in 10 Americans think the federal minimum wage is too low and two-thirds support increasing it to $15 per hour.

The findings are part of a new study conducted by market research firm Ipsos and Amazon. The poll of more than 6,000 people, conducted Jan. 28-Feb. 8, found that 80% believe large employers should play a major role in raising the federal minimum wage — compared to 73% for politicians and policymakers.

In other findings, the majority of Americans believe raising the minimum wage would have a positive impact on employees in general (70%), the country (55%), their community (54%), and the economy (54%).

“Virtually any policy discussion today devolves into partisan debates and experts talking past each other,” said Chris Jackson, senior VP of public affairs at Ipsos. “Rarely, if ever, do the opinions or preferences of regular Americans enter into these debates, but our study clearly indicates that the American people want to see the federal minimum wage increased. This level of agreement is practically unheard of in contemporary America.”

The study also highlighted the difficulties for those earning less than $15 per hour to afford basic necessities. About two in five hourly, temporary or seasonal employees say they make less than $15 an hour (37%). Those who make less than $15 an hour are significantly less likely to say they can afford basic human needs such as shopping for groceries, paying for prescription drugs or a doctor’s visit.

Also, those making less than $15 an hour are twice as likely to say they are not confident they could come up with $500 if an unexpected need came up in the next month (30%) compared to those making $15 or more (16%).

Amazon announced in 2018 a $15 minimum wage for 350,000 employees, both full-time and seasonal. The company has been vocal in its efforts to get other large employers and the federal government to do the same. 

“We believe that $15 an hour is the minimum that anyone in the U.S. should earn for an hour of labor; that’s why we were among the first major employers to offer a $15 an hour starting wage and why we’ve been advocating for an increase to the federal minimum wage ever since,” said Jay Carney, senior VP, Amazon Global Corporate Affairs.

 

 A recent paper by economists at the University of California-Berkeley and Brandeis University looked at the impact of Amazon’s decision to raise its starting pay. Researchers found that Amazon’s decision to hike its starting wage to $15 an hour in October 2018 had a positive impact on other wages in local labor markets where Amazon operates. The company’s pay raise resulted in a 4.7% increase in the average hourly wage among other employers in the same labor market.

The research also showed no significant job losses after Amazon and other local employers raised their starting wages. The authors found that the probability of employment decreased only 0.8 percentage points following the salary increases.