Arkansas has the highest percentage of workers in the nation that would be affected by raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour according to a report released Wednesday at over 25 percent. The international non-profit Oxfam America lists three of Arkansas’s four congressional districts among the top 25 in the country in the percentage of people likely to be affected.
No Arkansas congressmen or congressional candidate has expressed support for the federal increase to $10.10 an hour.
Arkansas women in the 4th congressional district are particularly subject to any change, ranking 4th in the nation for the percentage of women likely affected at over 32 percent, according to the report.
The Chief Economist and Economic Forecaster at the Institute for Economic Advancement at UALR Michael Pakko noted some economists argue a uniform nationwide increase doesn’t account for regional variances.
“The most expensive places to live are places like Washington D.C., New York, California those were also the places with the highest average wages. Arkansas is one of the lowest wage states in the nation but it’s also among the lowest cost of living states in the nation. Part of those differences tend to level things out,” said Pakko.
Oxfam America President Raymond Offenheiser said the $10.10 an hour figure is based on what the wage’s peak real value would be if it kept up with the cost of living since 1968. Offenheiser said raising the minimum wage makes sense even with regional differences.
“There are very few areas in the country where a minimum wage worker can afford a two bedroom apartment whether it’s in New York or it’s in Arkansas. What I think the Federal Reserve has commented on is that there’s very little evidence that a uniform federal minimum wage applied across states with deferential cost of living is also going to have an inflationary effect,” said Offenheiser.
Offenheiser said low wages are widespread.
“The highest concentrations of low wage workers are in both rural and urban areas. Rural areas like the central valley of California, south Texas, and the Ozark mountain region of Arkansas and Missouri have the highest percentages of workers that would benefit from a minimum wage increase,” said Offenheiser.
But Pakko cautioned some economists have different conclusions on the perceived benefits.
“While it’s certainly true that a higher wage is going to benefit people who receive the pay increase it also makes it possible that there will be others who will find themselves without a job or find it more difficult to get a job. In some cases those are exactly the same people that you’d like to help in the first place,” said Pakko.
Read Note 1 on Page 16 to see know more on how the criteria for the range of people affected is determined.