Raising the Minimum Wage Would Reduce Child Neglect Cases

Low-wage service jobs have exploded in recent years, but good-paying positions have been harder to come by. ELAINE THOMPSON/AP

Raising the minimum wage by $1 per hour would result in a substantial decrease in the number of reported cases of child neglect, according to a new study co-authored by an Indiana University researcher.

Congress is considering increases to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, and several state and city governments have enacted or are considering minimum wages higher than the federal rate. A $1 increase would result in 9,700 (9.6 percent) fewer reported cases of child neglect annually as well as a likely decrease in cases of physical abuse, said Lindsey Rose Bullinger of IU’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

“Money matters,” Bullinger said. “When caregivers have more disposable income, they’re better able to provide a child’s basic needs such as clothing, food, medical care and a safe home. Policies that increase the income of the working poor can improve children’s welfare, especially younger children, quite substantially.”

Bullinger and co-researcher Kerri Raissian of the University of Connecticut reached their conclusions by analyzing nine years of child maltreatment reports from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System. More than 30 states had minimum wages exceeding the federal requirement by an average of $1 during the study period, allowing the researchers to track changes in the number of reports to child protective service agencies with increases in the minimum wage.

The substantial decrease in child neglect cases is concentrated among toddlers and school-age children, but changes in the minimum wage had little impact on reports of neglect of teenagers. The researchers found no variation based on a child’s race.

One measure before Congress would increase the wage from $7.25 to $10.10, and several cities are looking at wages as high as $15.

“We can’t say for sure that there would be even fewer cases of child maltreatment if hourly pay were that high, but our findings point in that direction,” Bullinger said.

Most research on the minimum wage has focused on its effects on the economy and poverty. Too often, policymakers have overlooked the impact on human health and well-being, Bullinger said. She directed a previous research project that found that increases in the minimum wage resulted in a drop-off in teen births.

Bullinger and Raissian’s complete findings were published in the peer-reviewed article “Money matters: Does the minimum wage affect child maltreatment rates?” in the journal Children and Youth Services Review.

Increasing Minimum Wage Would Reduce Teen Pregnancies

A $1 increase in the minimum wage would likely reduce the U.S. adolescent birth rate by about 2 percent, according to new Indiana University research.

That would mean about 5,000 fewer births annually, and the number could go higher if the minimum wage increase climbed over $1, according to Lindsey Rose Bullinger, the study author and an associate instructor and doctoral student at the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

“Higher wages can give teens a reason to keep working,” Bullinger said. “Their advancement opportunities would improve, and they’d have good reason to delay childbearing or substitute work for leisure.”

Many studies have looked at the impact of a minimum wage hike on the economy, but few have analyzed the public health implications. It is a critical issue because the U.S. has the highest adolescent birth rate among developed countries.

Infants of teen mothers generally have worse birth outcomes than children of older mothers. Additionally, parenthood at an early age costs the public more than $9 billion annually because of expenses related to health care, foster care and foregone tax revenue from parents who leave the labor force.

“We know from previous research that an increase in the minimum wage is good for the health of the worker,” Bullinger said. “They live longer, have lower body mass indexes and are less likely to abuse children, among other benefits. This study adds to those findings by showing that higher pay means fewer births to adolescent parents. This is especially true for non-Hispanic white and Hispanic adolescents because they are more likely to be affected by minimum wage increases.”

The federal minimum wage is $7.25, but some cities and states have higher rates, including San Francisco and Seattle, where $15 is the hourly minimum. So increases of more than $1 are not unrealistic, which could avert even more teen births. Bullinger conducted a sophisticated statistical analysis of the differences in birth rates from state to state.

Bullinger’s complete findings were published in the peer-reviewed article “The Effect of Minimum Wages on Adolescent Fertility: A Nationwide Analysis,” published in the American Journal of Public Health.

Alabama’s Legislature Continues to Wage War on the Poor

19680790-standard

Alabama made headlines last week over a dispute between the Democratic City of Birmingham and the Republican state legislature on whether the city can pass a law to increase its minimum wage higher than the federal mandate. Last summer, the Magic City passed a law raising it’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour by 2017.  The law would have been enacted incrementally beginning in July 2016 by raising the current minimum wage of $7.25 to $8.50. 

However, lawmakers have since fast-tracked a bill that would prevent any municipality from requiring employers to provide benefits such as paid leave, vacation time, or even a marginally livable wage not already mandated by federal law. On Thursday, the state legislature sent their obstructionist bill to the governor who signed it into law an hour later. 

Anyone familiar with Alabama politics shouldn’t be surprised. It appears Alabama’s state government does not care about poor people–nearly 20% of its population which is over 900,000 people including 300,000 children are living in poverty. With only 30 meeting days left in the state’s legislative session, you would think there would be more pressing concerns than thwarting the will of the people. 

Alabama has cut funding for education, social services, and continues its refusal to expand Medicaid. And while this is all evidence of the state’s complete disregard for impoverished residents, its efforts to block Birmingham’s minimum wage increase is a direct assault on the very notion that citizens might govern themselves. Alabama has nothing to lose by allowing Birmingham to implement a $10.10 minimum wage.

You can make all the political arguments you want about how a similar statewide increases might deter businesses from coming to Alabama or result in layoffs–results not seen after wage increases in other states—but Birmingham should be a win-win. There’s no political liability to allowing Birmingham to set a higher minimum wage, the extra income means more tax revenue for the state’s anemic budget, and any perceived negative consequences–let me reiterate that empirically there are none–would only affect the city.

The leadership in Birmingham is hardly radical. The fact they stood up to the state legislature by attempting to put their minimum wage law into effect before the state could take action to delay only furthers evidence of how needed the increase really is. The proposed wage increase still isn’t enough to afford a 2-bedroom apartment, child care, or eliminate the need for other forms of assistance, but it could mean a little more food on the table for working families.

 Alabamians have endured the ridiculous priorities and imaginary fears of the Republican-dominated statehouse for far too long. Alabama residents must begin to organize themselves to bring change to the state. Academics understand the scope of the problem, churches and service-based nonprofits see the real-world impact, and everyday people experience the constant struggles of living on poverty wages. 

It won’t be easy, and it won’t happen in a single election. However, if people concerned about a living wage start talking to one another to come up with solutions–including running for office–then we can start to see change in Alabama.

Are Sheltered Workshops A Thing of the Past

Much like institutionalization of people with disabilities, sheltered workshops started with someone’s heart being in the right place. Starting around the middle of the 20th century, sheltered workshops began as an intervention for adults with disabilities in which they were given jobs to help keep them busy. These places offer limited-skill work such as sorting, assembling and packaging to people with disabilities.

01 sheltered workshop 82014 0202fOften, the jobs are repetitive-motion tasks, do not offer much in the way of self-fulfillment, and give the employees zero opportunity to advance their position in the company. More often than not, workers make somewhere between $2 – $3 per hour which is less than half of the federal minimum wage that so many non-disabled workers are fighting to increase.

There is a great debate taking place on whether or not sheltered workshops should still be an option for people with disabilities who age out of school usually at the age of 21. One of the main arguments people have against closing down workshops is the fear that these individuals will have no place to go since businesses tend to not hire people with disabilities.

According to the Department of Labor as of August 2014, the numbers appear to support this argument because unemployment rates for people with disabilities are twice as high than people without disabilities.  You can find more information on that here:

According to an article in the Disability Scoop, Vermont has found a way to improve outcomes for the disabled after closing its sheltered workshops which states,

The sheltered workshops that are still prevalent across much of the country were shut down in Vermont more than a decade ago. And now, the employment rate of people with developmental disabilities in the New England state is twice the national average. Read Full Article

How did Vermont do it?

The University of Vermont received a grant to build programs for integrated employment in the 1980’s. They worked with state disability agencies and its success over time was enough for Vermont to realize that sheltered workshops were not how the state wanted their citizens with disabilities to be treated. Workshops were phased out over a 4-year period: new entries into workshops were no longer allowed and their funding was incrementally cut.

Of course, there were fears from the families who would be directly affected by this and rightly so. As parents, we want our children to be safe and secure, accepted by peers and part of something bigger than themselves. Could these desires be realized if workers with disabilities don’t have contact with others who are also disabled? Is there a job out there they could actually do and feel good about doing? Would society in general accept them?

It turns out, the answer is yes! In Vermont, about 80% of the people who used to be in workshops found employment in an integrated setting. The rest found other community-based services. According to the Disability Scoop article, “In fiscal year 2013, the average wage for supported employees was $9.26, more than 50 cents above the state’s minimum wage and $2 above the federal minimum wage.” How incredible is that while Vermont shows no signs of slowing its success.

It has increased its numbers of employed disabled individuals yearly. To continue their success rate, ongoing support is available in each county and doesn’t fade over time, which is common in most other states. There are also education programs with businesses that ease fears and answers questions for potential employers.

Looking to the future

Some argue the reason Vermont was able to be so successful is because it’s a small state, but isn’t that a cop out? Amazingly, Vermont was able to develop their employment program without involving the legislative process, but not every state is willing to do the work to put this program in place even though Vermont offers a living model of how and why it should be done.

In order to make sheltered workshops a thing of the past or at least a last resort, there is new legislation under consideration in both Houses of Congress that would alter their pathway into the workforce. Under Section 511 of the Workforce Investment Act, people under 24 years of age could not be employed by workshops unless they have sought employment in other settings first. This legislation also requires that state vocational rehabilitation agencies provide “pre-employment services” to students at schools in their area.

As a parent to a teenager whose disability severely impacts her, I worry about her future all the time. What will she do when she ages out of school? Today, I can’t picture a job where she can be independent because of the extremity of her physical disability but who knows where we’ll be in terms of technology and employability six years from now? My greatest hope is that all states work towards achieving the successful model Vermont has realized so that our community has as many options as it can.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Kansas City Star

Federal Contract Workers with Disabilities Included In Minimum Wage Executive Order

by Vilissa K. Thompson, LMSW

Pres. Obama 1Recently, President Obama signed an executive order to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for federal contract workers.  This action will benefit individuals who are contracted with the federal government who are making less than this newly approved rate.  (The current minimum wage rate is $7.25 an hour.)  The minimum wage hike for federal workers will become effective on January 1st, 2015.  Raising the minimum wage coincides with the President’s plans to increase opportunities for the American people.

When the President announced his executive order concerning the minimum wage increase during his State of the Union Address last month, there were one particular group who were left out of his initiative – federal workers with disabilities.  The White House and the Department of Labor did not intend to allow people with disabilities working under federal contracts with special certificates to receive the new minimum wage increase.  The failure to include people with disabilities who work for the federal government was met with great opposition, and those within the disability community advocated for federal workers with disabilities to be included in the President’s order.

Under the current law, federal workers with disabilities may be paid less than the $7.25/hour rate under specialized certificate programs.  This means that it is legal to pay federal workers with disabilities incredibly less than their able-bodied colleagues, even though they are doing the same job.  The current provision creates a disproportionate living wage gap between disabled and able-bodied federal contracted workers.  Without the inclusion of people with disabilities in the President’s order, certain disabled workers would have continued to earn a living wage as little as 22 cents an hour.

With the unemployment rate for people with disabilities being 13.3%, and the labor force participation rate being 18.2% for January 2014, it is imperative for the employability of people with disabilities to be on the consciousness of the President, and our representatives.  Despite being the largest minority group in the country, people with disabilities are not fully integrated within our workforce system, even though there are a great number of programs and services in place to increase employment opportunities for this population.  This “oversight” by the White House and the Labor Department before disability advocates ramped their voices signaled how dire it is for people with disabilities to be politically aware, and involved.

This executive order is a steppingstone in the right direction to increase the minimum wage for all Americans, but what can be done to ensure that people with disabilities are not overlooked or dismissed when future plans are constructed to improve the well-being and economic status of those in this country?  How can we better advocate for ourselves, and demand that those with influence take our needs and concerns seriously?  Share your thoughts and suggestions with me because excluding people with disabilities from momentous initiatives such as this can no longer suffice.

(Featured headlining image:  Courtesy of Black Enterprise.)

Family and Maternity Leave Around the World: How Does the USA Measure Up?

Maternity-leave-chart-final

In the last few decades, women have been dominating the workforce because having a single income family is no longer enough to maintain a middle class living. More importantly, women enjoy and want to have careers and be contributors in the workforce. However, women have increasingly faced challenges in balancing work with parenthood especially with the lack of paid maternity leave.

This imbalance has created a need for substantial policy in areas such as child care assistance, reproductive rights, and family medical leave. Women who become pregnant have to take time off work for recovery time, doctor visits, and to allow appropriate time for mother and child to bond. Due to the high expense of daycare,  many women cannot afford to work full-time and being to cover day care expenses.

Often daycare expenses cost higher than what the average working mother will earn in a 40 hour work week. This cost analysis and barrier prevents many families from rising above the poverty level. In addition,  many women, married and unmarried, often have the burden of the “ unpaid second shift” which is taking on many of the domestic duties at home as well.

Some of the policy changes around the world came as a result of needed parental leave and a preschool provisions for children until the age of six. Germany and France were two of the first countries to get maternity leave. Currently, 128 countries provide paid and job protected child-birth leave. The primary factor which determines the way a country or state gives this benefit varies from place to place. However, it is important to note that some places provide longer leave times than others. For example, the United States has largely decided to make the majority of maternity leave in this country unpaid.

Eighty eight countries provide allowances for families, to help with raising them, and the United States is the only country which provides no such family allowances. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United States is the single least generous country in relation to its treatment of families.

It is disconcerting that the US and Australia are the only two countries that offer no federally mandated paid maternity leave. This is a huge barrier for families and single parents raising children. Notably, France is one of the countries that has provided the most benefits for women on maternity leave such as increased leave when having more children. For example, the child rearing benefit is more if they have more than two children.

The way the a state or country attacks these problems tells provides great insight into how they value maternity leave and child rearing. Out of all the countries studied, the United States lagged behind all others in the support and balance they give to families.  Daycare was another benefited proved by many as a public services in countries like Germany. While many of the OECD countries provide this daycare regardless of income, the US only provides assistance for the abused and low-income.

The policies of Sweden and France are able to help provide women the ability to balance family and work. Whereas in the US, there are a large number of children at the poverty level due to policy decisions that do not support women and children post birth. Because of the lack of assistance in the United States, many women in single and working class families cannot afford to have day care, unless there is some subsidized program they can participate in.

Many women are forced to limit the time they work until their children begin school age. Public awareness on this issue needs to be increase in order to promote more advocacy and policy changes in these areas. Write your representatives on this matter, go in groups to speak to legislators, and set up community awareness events in your community.

I think the United States could learn from many of the policies and practices of countries like Sweden and France. This would give us the same opportunity to work full-time and pursue the American Dream. I think these countries as well as the other countries in the OECD have done a far better job to address the gender differences of women and men. As far as the United States, I feel that our policy makers have let us down. It’s unfortunate that many policy makers do not realize that addressing these issues affecting women would be the best policies to uplifting everyone.

Conway, M. (2004). Women and Public Policy: A Revolution in Progress (3rd ed., pp. 175-189). N.p.: CQ Press

Henderson, S., & Jeydel, A. (2009). Women in Politics in a Global World (2nd ed., pp. 144-169). N.p.: Oxford University Press’ Higher.

Exit mobile version