Living at the Minimum: Low-Wage Workers with Children During Seattle's Minimum Wage Increase

Awarded Scholars:
Heather D. Hill, University of Washington
Jennifer Romich, University of Washington
Project Date:
May 2015
Award Amount:
$30,766

Co-funded with the MacArthur Foundation

Starting in April 2015, the minimum wage in Seattle, WA, will begin a gradual increase to $15 per hour. As of 2017, most low-wage jobs for large employers (more than 500 employees) must pay $15 per hour (all employers come up to this level by 2021), and the minimum wage rate will automatically increase with inflation.

Human development and social policy experts Heather Hill and Jennifer Romich will carry out an in-depth, qualitative study of Seattle workers with children before and after the implementation of the city’s minimum wage law. This qualitative component is part of a larger Seattle Wage Study, which also includes analyses of secondary data sources, an employer survey, and a consumer price module. Hill and Romich will examine four research questions: (1) How do workers experience the wage increases in their monthly budgets, and through what mechanisms? (2) From the perspective of workers, how are their work schedules, compensation, and tasks determined? (3) What are the trade-offs, according to workers, of packaging earnings with other financial and in-kind supports? (4) How do workers describe the influence of work conditions and budgets on day-to-day routines, family dynamics (including parenting), and parent and child well-being?

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