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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Columbia National Center for Children in Poverty Research Finds Working Full Time is Not Enough to Lift Florida’s Working Parents Out of Poverty

Even after working 40 or more hours a week, thousands of Florida parents would need to earn nearly double the state’s current hourly minimum wage in order to break even, according to policy analyses conducted by researchers at the National Center for Children in Poverty (NCCP), Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Findings from NCCP’s latest brief, on Florida’s minimum wage, underscore the importance of considering the consequences of policies — and policy interactions — on the lives of working families.

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[Photo: Dr. Renée Wilson-Simmons]

“For all but the smallest Florida households, working full time will not be enough to make ends meet or to provide families with a sure path out of poverty,” said NCCP director Dr. Renée Wilson-Simmons, who is also assistant professor of health policy and management at the Mailman School.  “At Florida’s current minimum wage of $8.05, some 200,000 parents working full time live in poverty, and still more struggle to pay for such basics as child care, health care, and housing. And, perversely, in many households, taking on more hours can actually cost more money as important benefits decline.”

In the past year, Florida state legislators have advanced legislation or promoted ballot initiatives that would raise the state’s minimum wage to as much as $15 per hour. However, insufficient support from Florida lawmakers and business leaders has blocked those efforts, despite arguments by advocates that raising the minimum wage would help working Floridians cover much-needed family expenses, leading to increased spending that would, in turn, help spur the state’s economy.

To help inform this debate, NCCP researchers released the policy brief The Florida Minimum Wage: How Much Can It Really Buy, and How High Should It Be? which illustrates how changes in the minimum wage would affect the budgets of low-income households at a range of working hours.

Here are some of the Florida findings:

“Exploring how proposed changes affect families’ real choices and opportunities is crucial to any policy debate,” said NCCP researcher Seth Hartig. “For example, a Jacksonville family with two parents earning the minimum wage with one child in daycare would see a boost once they qualify for health care subsidies, at the point when one parent works 40 hours a week and a second parent works eight hours a week. But our model estimates that for every hour a parent works after that, it costs an average of $7.92 an hour as expenses like child care and transportation go up.”

This latest analysis of the Florida minimum wage policy is derived from a recent update of NCCP’s Family Resource Simulator, an online tool that allows users to analyze how federal and state supports function separately and together to strengthen — or weaken — family economic security. The web-based platform gives users latitude to explore and test a variety of scenarios.

The Florida Family Resource Simulator includes six localities — Highlands County, Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Tallahassee, and Tampa — and reflects policy rules in effect as of summer 2015. Over the past 13 years, NCCP has developed simulators for 26 states, most recently updating the tool for Florida, Colorado, and Ohio.

To use the Family Resource Simulator or any of NCCP’s other policy tools, visit www.nccp.org/tools.