Massachusetts’ minimum wage, which is $10 an hour and is scheduled to rise to $11 an hour next January, is significantly higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. According to the report, the state’s wages have routinely been higher than national average for workers in every wage bracket. MassBudget President Noah Berger said the disparity stems from several different factors.
“We see in the report that policy matters,” he said. “For example, we saw the first time in awhile significant growth for low-wage workers. And that’s largely because the state raised the minimum wage. We also see that Massachusetts has the best-educated workforce in the country and the highest median wage in the country. And that’s not a coincidence: states that have better-educated workers have higher wages and stronger economies.”
Wages in the U.S. were tied to productivity levels until the 1970s, according to the report. But starting in 1973, growth in productivity began to outpace growth in wages. As of 2013, the report stated, U.S. productivity has grown by 151 percent, while wages have only grown 19 percent.
Berger says there are several policy changes that the state can make that would boost state economy and tangibly better the lives of working people. These include prioritizing spending on education, raising the minimum wage and ensuring employees have access to sick time and paid family medical leave, he said.
“I think the hope is to focus our public debate and, ultimately, public policy strategies for raising the rates of income for working people,” said Berger. “I think, long-term, the policy challenge is to identify strategies that can actually improve the economic lives of people in the state.”
Infographic courtesy Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, Creative Commons