The Raise the Wage Act Could Lower Housing Cost Burden and Advance Racial Equity
This article frames the federal Raise the Wage Act – a policy proposal to simultaneously raise the federal minimum wage and eliminate the existing two-tiered minimum wage system – as a targeted mechanism for increasing the income of low-wage workers (and, especially, low-wage workers of color), in pursuit of more universal goals of housing security and racial equity. The memo draws on data from the U.S. Census Bureau as part of a case study to show that “Raise the Wage” would meaningfully reduce housing cost-burden in the city of Buffalo, NY, particularly for households headed by persons of color. At bottom, the findings from this memo suggest that many low-income households stand to gain some measure of financial and housing security under the Raise the Wage Act. However, so long as wealth and power remain concentrated at the top of existing social hierarchies — or, more to the point, so long as existing social hierarchies remain in place — these marginal gains will be temporary at best. Thus, while raising the wage is an important near-term action for targeting more income to working people and families right now, for it to be a step up to the High Road – and not just another lateral move along the Low Road – the policy needs to be situated in a longer-term strategy to provide ordinary people with the means, resources, and infrastructure they need to live flourishing lives as members of self-determining communities.
housing affordability; High Road Policy; racial equity; minimum wage; housing security
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