A Million Veterans Would Benefit from a Minimum Wage Increase

By:  David Cooper

We ask a lot of our armed forces. They serve our country in some of the most dangerous environments and difficult situations faced by any American. Yet having endured those experiences, too many veterans returning to civilian jobs find themselves in work that barely pays enough to live on. In fact, of the roughly 10 million veterans working in America today, 1 in 10—that’s one million veterans—is paid wages low enough that they would receive a raise if the federal minimum wage were increased to $10.10 per hour, as proposed in the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013.

Months ago, we released an analysis showing that increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 would lift wages for 27.8 million workers nationwide. The one million veterans that would benefit from such an increase are a relatively small segment of this larger group, but the fact that a million former service members would benefit from raising the minimum wage should dispel the persistent myth that raising the minimum wage only benefits teenagers and students from affluent families. Not only is this an inaccurate description of the typical low-wage worker, but the veterans that would get a raise look nothing like this affluent teen stereotype and are, in some ways, noticeably different from the larger population of would-be beneficiaries from a minimum-wage increase. (See the table below for details, or click here for a pdf.)

  • Unsurprisingly, the majority of veterans that would be affected by a minimum wage increase are men (80 percent), whereas the majority of the total population (veterans and non-veterans) that would be affected are women (55 percent). However, female veterans would still be disproportionately affected—they make up 20 percent of veterans who would be affected, yet only 14 percent of working veterans.

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