June 16, 2014
CBS News - When it comes to the minimum wage, not every state is created equal.
That's because a handful of U.S. states have a high share of hourly workers who earn the baseline federal wage or are paid rates that drop even below that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Across the country, about 4.3 percent of workers getting an hourly rate are earning either the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, or less. But certain states have much higher shares of low-wage workers, such as Tennessee, which ranks as the country's leader when it comes to workers making the bare minimum.
In Virginia, about 6.2 percent of hourly workers make $7.25 an hour or less. While legislators tried earlier this year to raise the state's baseline wage to $9.25 over the next two years, the measure died in a state House committee vote. Despite its high share of low-wage workers, only about 11.1 percent of Virginians live in poverty, below the national average of 14.9 percent.
It's notable that three of the top nine states with the biggest percentages of low-wage hourly workers lack a state law establishing a baseline wage. (Only five states in the U.S. don't have their own minimum wage.)
While the debate continues about raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, the number of Americans earning the baseline rate is at a 15-year high, according to the BLS. And it's no longer teenagers who make up the bulk of low-paid workers: About half of minimum-wage employees are between 35 to 64 years old.
States with a high population of workers making $7.25 per hour or less are:
- Tennessee: 7.4 percent of workers. About 17 percent of its residents live below the federal poverty level
- Idaho: About 7.1 percent of workers. About 15 percent of its residents live in poverty.
- Alabama: About 6.8 of workers. About 18.1 percent of Alabamans live below the poverty level.
- Arkansas: 6.8 of workers. Almost 19 percent of its residents are living in poverty
- Texas: 6.4 of workers. About 17.4 percent of Texans live below the poverty line.
- Oklahoma: Roughly 6.3 percent of workers. About 16.6 percent of its residents are living in poverty.
- Virginia: About 6.2 percent of workers. About 11.1 of Virginians live in poverty
- Indiana: 6.2 percent of workers. The state's poverty rate is about equal with the nation's.
- Mississippi: 6.1 percent of workers. 22.3 percent of its residents live in poverty.