A map of US wages that suggests most Americans live in some sort of indentured servitude has gone viral.

Thankfully, the claim is easily debunked:

If that sounds bogus, it’s because it is.

Here’s why:

  1. Very few people who earn the minimum wage are living on that wage alone; a majority are working part-time, and live with a working spouse or in a family with an income far above the poverty line.
  2. Those who do earn just the minimum have access to additional income via policies like the Earned Income Tax Credit. (That’s especially the case for a family that would need the two-bedroom apartment misleadingly used as a benchmark in the chart above).

….Turns out, most people who earn the minimum wage aren’t living in poverty. In New York, for instance, the average family income of a person who would benefit from a hike in the state minimum wage is over $53,000 a year. Sixty percent are either living with family (e.g. a teen at home with their parents), or are second earners whose spouse also works.

By contrast, just over eight percent are single parents supporting children—families that qualify for up to about $7,500 in additional income from the tax credit mentioned above. They’re also eligible for a variety of other public programs.

Well-meaning attempts to help a small group of people by raising the minimum wage to $25 an hour (the amount needed to match the two-bedroom rental cost) would do nothing more than put a lot employers out of business—and put a lot of their employees out of a job.

That’s without broaching the impact of minimum wage on youth employment, hiring practices, and the like.

Labor laws have found a way to morph and destroy major facets of American industry — “infographics” like this one tap into the weaknesses of democracy, much like the Kony ad from earlier this year. 


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