Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

PolitiFact.com | Tampa Bay Times
Sorting out the truth in politics

PolitiFact: Minimum wage more than half poverty level for nearly all households

The statement

"On (the federal minimum wage of) $7.75, you can't even make half the poverty level."

U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash., Nov. 12 on MSNBC's Politics Nation

The ruling

A recent Gallup poll showed that an overwhelming 76 percent of Americans want the minimum wage increased to $9. There hasn't been a minimum wage increase in four years, and the prospect of an increase — particularly in the Republican-controlled House — looks dim.

But that hasn't stopped advocates of a higher minimum wage from making their case.

We wondered: Is it true, as Rep. McDermott said, that if you are paid $7.75 an hour, "you can't even make half the poverty level?"

First off, we need to correct one aspect of McDermott's claim. While he's right that the federal minimum wage has been static for the past four years, it's $7.25 an hour, not $7.75. But because he was specific about the dollar amount, we'll use that to make our calculations.

If you earned $7.75 an hour for 40 hours a week and 52 weeks a year, you would earn $16,120. For this to be less than half the poverty level, the poverty level would have to be at least $32,240.

Is the poverty level that high? For most households, no.

The federal poverty level is actually a matrix of different dollar amounts. It depends on the size of the family, with larger families having a higher threshold.

The poverty level exceeds $32,240 only for families with at least seven people — say, two parents and five children, or one parent and six children. (For a seven-person household, an income of $35,610 is right at the poverty level.) If we were to use the actual minimum wage of $7.25, the yearly income would be less than half of poverty for a six-person family, rather than seven.

According to the Census Bureau, only 9 percent of households have even three children, and the number with five (or six, if it's a single-parent household) is even smaller. Extrapolating from 2006 data, we estimate that about 2 percent of households have at least five children.

So, McDermott's claim would be wrong for 98 percent of households. And this may even understate how wrong he is.

Under the federal Earned Income Tax Credit — which provides a refundable tax credit to working people with low incomes — a poverty-level household with two adults and two children would be eligible for $5,372 in tax credits, noted Michael Wiseman, a professor of public policy and economics at George Washington University. That would make McDermott's scenario even more far-fetched.

A spokeswoman for McDermott acknowledged that he "misspoke," both about the amount of the federal minimum wage and about how far that wage would go.

"The point he was trying to make was that the current minimum wage is nowhere close to a livable wage," said spokeswoman Amber Macdonald.

We rate this statement False.

Edited for print. Read the full version at PolitiFact.com.

PolitiFact: Minimum wage more than half poverty level for nearly all households 11/29/13 [Last modified: Friday, November 29, 2013 6:13pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Review: Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald team up to cool down the Clearwater Jazz Holiday

    Blogs

    A cool breeze swept through Coachman Park Saturday night. Couple of them, actually.

    Kenny Loggins performed at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday on Oct. 21, 2017.
  2. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start

    College

    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  3. Lightning buries Penguins (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Ryan Callahan spent a lot of time last season rehabilitating his injured hip alongside Steven Stamkos, who was rehabbing a knee after season-ending surgery. During those hours, Callahan noticed two things about Stamkos: his hunger and his excitement to return this season.

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek (29) advances the puck through the neutral zone during the first period of Saturday???‚??„?s (10/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. Spain planning to strip Catalonia of its autonomy

    World

    BARCELONA, Spain — The escalating confrontation over Catalonia's independence drive took its most serious turn Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid.

    Demonstrators in Barcelona protest the decision to take control of Catalonia to derail the independence movement.
  5. Funeral held for soldier at center of political war of words (w/video)

    Nation

    COOPER CITY — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102