Why Small Business Owners Back a Higher Minimum Wage

By: CBS MoneyWatch
By: CBS MoneyWatch

July 11, 2014

CBS MoneyWatch - When it comes to raising the minimum wage, employees aren't the only ones who want a boost -- small-business owners want it as well.

Sixty-one percent of small-business owners with employees say they support increasing the baseline wage in three stages over two-and-a-half years and adjusting it after that to keep pace with increases in the cost of living. That's a finding in a new study from the American Sustainable Business Council and Business for a Fair Minimum Wage.

Given that raising the baseline wage would mean higher employment costs for small-business owners, what's prompting the support? Most said boosting it would increase consumer purchasing power and help the economy, the poll found. And for their own businesses, they said they expected less turnover and better productivity.

Forty-three percent of the respondents identified themselves as Republican, while only 28 percent said they were Democrats. Another 19 percent identified as independent.

While it may be surprising that so many small-business owners favor giving employees pay hikes, their support still lags that of the general public. About 71 percent of Americans support a higher federal minimum wage, according to a Gallup poll from March.

The debate over the minimum wage comes at a time when incomes for many Americans have stagnated. Hourly wages in the U.S. are increasing only 2 percent this year, barely ahead of inflation. Wages have hardly budged upwards over the past three decades, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

While some opponents of the hike say it's designed for entry-level employees, such as teenagers just getting their foot in the door, most low-wage workers today are adults. Only 1 in 10 are actually teens, while 37 percent are between 35 to 64 years old.

Small business backing for a higher minimum wage varied slightly by region, with owners in the Northeast expressing the strongest support at 67 percent. About 61 percent of those in the Midwest were in support and 60 percent in the West. Small-business owners in the South showed the least backing, at 58 percent, but still a majority think it's a good move.

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