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Mind the Gap: Net Incomes of Minimum Wage Workers in the EU and the US

Author

Listed:
  • Marx, Ive

    () (University of Antwerp)

  • Marchal, Sarah

    () (University of Antwerp)

  • Nolan, Brian

    () (University College Dublin)

Abstract

This paper focuses on the role of minimum wages, tax and benefit policies in protecting workers against financial poverty, covering 21 European countries with a national minimum wage and three US States (New Jersey, Nebraska and Texas). It is shown that only for single persons and only in a number of countries, net income packages at minimum wage level reach or exceed the EU's at-risk-of poverty threshold, set at 60 per cent of median equivalent household income in each country. For lone parents and sole breadwinners with a partner and children to support, net income packages at minimum wage are below this threshold almost everywhere, usually by a wide margin. This is the case despite shifts over the past decade towards tax relief and additional income support provisions for low-paid workers. We argue that there appear to be limits to what minimum wage policies alone can achieve in the fight against in-work poverty. The route of raising minimum wages to eliminate poverty among workers solely reliant on it seems to be inherently constrained, especially in countries where the distance between minimum and average wage levels is already comparatively small and where relative poverty thresholds are mostly a function of the dual-earner living standards. In order to fight in-work poverty new policy routes need to be explored. The paper offers a brief discussion of possible alternatives and cautions against 'one size fits all' policy solutions.

Suggested Citation

  • Marx, Ive & Marchal, Sarah & Nolan, Brian, 2012. "Mind the Gap: Net Incomes of Minimum Wage Workers in the EU and the US," IZA Discussion Papers 6510, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp6510
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Juan J. Dolado & Florentino Felgueroso & Juan F. Jimeno, 2000. "The Role of the Minimum Wage in the Welfare State: An Appraisal," Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics (SJES), Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics (SSES), vol. 136(III), pages 223-245, September.
    2. Denis Anne & Yannick L’Horty, 2009. "Les effets du revenu de Solidarité active sur les gains du retour à l'emploi," Revue économique, Presses de Sciences-Po, vol. 60(3), pages 767-776.
    3. Kristian Orsini & Olivier Bargain, 2006. "Beans for breakfast? How exportable is the British workfare model?," Open Access publications 10197/557, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
    4. L. Randall Wray & Stephanie Bell, 2004. "Introduction," Chapters,in: Credit and State Theories of Money, chapter 1 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    5. Philippe Robert-Demontrond & R. Ringoot, 2004. "Introduction," Post-Print halshs-00081823, HAL.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Ive Marx & Brian Nolan & Javier Olivera, 2014. "The Welfare State and Anti-Poverty Policy in Rich Countries," Working Papers 1403, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
    2. Mueller, Kai-Uwe & Steiner, Viktor, 2013. "Behavioral effects of a federal minimum wage and income inequality in Germany," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 79784, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    3. Bea Cantillon & Sarah Marchal & Chris Luigjes, 2015. "Decent incomes for the poor: which role for Europe?," ImPRovE Working Papers 15/20, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
    4. Mechelen, N. (Natascha) van & Sarah Marchal, 2012. "GINI DP 55: Struggle for Life: Social Assistance Benefits, 1992-2009," GINI Discussion Papers 55, AIAS, Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies.
    5. Mechelen, N. (Natascha) van & Bradshaw, J. (Jonathan), 2012. "GINI DP 50: Child Poverty as a Government Priority: Child Benefit Packages for Working Families, 1992-2009," GINI Discussion Papers 50, AIAS, Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies.
    6. Sarah Marchal & Ive Marx, 2015. "Stemming the tide. What have EU countries done to support low-wage workers in an era of downward wage pressure?," ImPRovE Working Papers 15/18, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
    7. Bea Cantillon & Natascha Van Mechelen & Olivier Pintelon & Aaron Van den Heede, 2012. "Household Work Intensity and the Adequacy of Social Protection in the EU," Working Papers 1204, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
    8. Bea Cantillon & Diego Collado & Natascha Van Mechelen, 2015. "The end of decent social protection for the poor? The dynamics of low wages, minimum income packages and median household incomes," Working Papers 1501, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
    9. Bea Cantillon & Diego Collado & Natascha Van Mechelen, 2015. "The end of decent social protection for the poor? The dynamics of low wages, minimum income packages and median household incomes," ImPRovE Working Papers 15/03, Herman Deleeck Centre for Social Policy, University of Antwerp.
    10. Rense Nieuwenhuis & Laurie C. Maldonado, 2017. "Single-Parent Families and In-Work Poverty," LIS Working papers 687, LIS Cross-National Data Center in Luxembourg.
    11. Wang, Jinxian & Van Vliet, Olaf, 2014. "Social assistance and minimum income benefits: Benefit levels, replacement rates and policies across 33 countries, 1990-2009," MPRA Paper 66464, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    social transfers; minimum wage; poverty; taxes; subsidies;

    JEL classification:

    • I3 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty
    • H2 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue
    • J8 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Standards

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