Legislative Briefing: Single Mothers In Poverty and Health Benefits of Raising the Minimum Wage

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The Women’s Foundation of California and Human Impact Partners are holding a press teleconference and a legislative briefing on Tuesday, May 20, to release data that shows the powerful health benefits of raising California’s minimum wage to $13 an hour. The report is being released along with maps of each Assembly and Senate district that show the poverty rates of California’s single mother-headed households and their children.

“We’re pleased to see that Governor Brown is investing in Medi-Cal expansion, but there’s more that needs to be done,” said Rajiv Bhatia, author of Health Impacts of Raising California’s Minimum Wage and former San Francisco environmental health director.  Now that our state is making progress toward improving health care access, we also have to take steps to put in place other policy prescriptions that we know increase health outcomes and help to alleviate poverty. Raising the minimum wage will help do that."

“Fewer than 12% of minimum wage workers are teenagers living at home. Over two-thirds are women and the majority of them are supporting families,” explained Judy Patrick, President and CEO of the Women’s Foundation of California. “We’re presenting these maps and data of each district because it’s stunning to see that some of our districts have a poverty rate that surpasses 30%. We wanted to make it impossible for legislators, their constituents and the governor to ignore the accumulated impact of wages not keeping pace with the costs of supporting a family and dramatic cuts in recent years to California safety net.”

Key findings:

  • Raising the minimum wage would prevent the premature deaths of nearly 400 lower-income Californians each year. Nationally, people who live above the federal poverty line can expect to live more than five years longer than those below the line.
  • While 13% of the households in the state are headed by women, these households represent 39% of the households in poverty.
  • More than 20% of all children in California are growing up in poverty and in some parts of the state these rates are much higher. California children under 5 whose family incomes are more than three times the federal poverty level are 2.6 times more likely to have been read to by a caregiver than children whose families are below the poverty level.
  • In California, Latinos are disproportionately poor. They constitute 38% of our population and 54% of those living in poverty.
  • 36% of California households have a high school degree or less, and these households represent 66% of the households living in poverty.
  • Raising the minimum wage will lower the rates of chronic diseases, disabilities, smoking and obesity.

The release of this data is particularly timely and relevant because the Legislature is making decisions about the State’s budget priorities and SB 935 (Leno), which would raise the state minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2017.