Estimating the Impact of a $12.45 Living Wage for Milwaukee County

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December 16, 2013

The recently proposed Living Wage Ordinance for Milwaukee County would establish a floor on wages of $12.45 per hour for the work done in support of the public priorities achieved through county contracts, leases, and concessions. Using the best estimates of covered workers available, a new paper from the Center on Wisconsin Strategy simulates the impact of the $12.45 living wage on covered workers.

Projections are necessarily speculative. Still the data suggest that there will be a positive impact on wages, workers’ lives, and the broader economy:

  • Thousands of very low-wage workers would secure higher wages as a result of the proposed ordinance. Estimates suggest that at least 8000 workers stand to gain. Approximately 5500 of these workers are currently providing care to people who are frail and elderly throughout the county. Another 2500 of these workers are employed in various tasks at the Milwaukee airport.
  • For the vast majority of these 8000 workers, the wage increase to $12.45 would significantly increase earnings and improve the standard of living. Hundreds of interviews with impacted workers put their average wage at $9.00 per hour. The wage increase will be sufficient for covered workers jobs to lift full-time workers and their families out of poverty.
  • The collective impact of the Living Wage would increase wage income by some tens of millions of dollars annually, providing a boost to the local economy as well. Our estimates put the income increases in the range over $38 million per year. 


“Thousands of workers in Milwaukee County work for the public good, with either the financial support or legal consent of the County itself, but do not earn enough in their jobs to make ends meet,” said Laura Dresser of COWS. “The Living Wage Ordinance makes it clear that the county will support and enforce decent standards for workers when public money or public ends are being pursued through private businesses.”

Read the paper here: http://www.cows.org/_data/documents/1568.pdf