Louisiana falls further behind in minimum wage

Louisiana falls further behind in minimum wage

As many states try to keep up with inflation by raising the minimum wage, Louisiana continues to lag behind. An increase in the minimum wage would have a significant impact on Louisiana families, as 10 percent of Louisiana workers would be impacted by a wage increase to $8.50. The Advocate’s Stephanie Grace catches us up on minimum wage changes in the new year:

With Congress having abandoned a once bipartisan consensus that the minimum wage should be periodically increased to keep up with the cost of living, the task has now fallen to states and localities, and many have responded. On Jan. 1, 20 states increased the minimum hourly wage employers must pay, including some that also tend to skew Republican. Louisiana is not among them, despite the best efforts of Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards. While 29 states now have minimum wages above the federal level, long stuck at $7.25 an hour, Edwards has consistently seen his extremely modest goal of an eventual $8.50 thwarted by a conservative Legislature.


Big win for Early Childhood Education
Louisiana is receiving nearly $8 million from the federal government and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation to improve early childhood education. This money is a huge win for hardworking families struggling to find affordable, reliable child care and early childhood education services for their children. Will Sentell of The Advocate has more:

It will be used to help local communities make informed decisions on setting up early childhood education sites, aid families who do early childhood education at home and finance professional development for early childhood teachers, according to the state Department of Education. The money will also help the state launch a program aimed at helping child care sites share resources, including substitute teachers.

The one-year funding will be more than helpful, but early childhood education should also be prioritized by state, as the grant does not assist with creating more seats. The Times-Picayune Editorial Board weighs in:

Melanie Bronfin, executive director of the Louisiana Policy Institute for Children, put the grant funding in perspective. “It is wonderful that Louisiana was chosen to be one of the states to receive the Preschool Development Grant,” because the grant will allow the state to improve the quality of its early care and education programs, she said in a written statement. However, this funding cannot be used for seats, and Louisiana is “only serving 15 percent of our children in need from birth through age three,” she said. “We look forward to future opportunities to increase the publicly funded seats for our hard-working families who desperately need access to reliable, affordable, quality care for their young children.”


Who was poor in 2017
Every year, the Brookings Institution breaks down trends in poverty data at the national level using U.S. Census data. These analysis provide helpful insight into certain demographics and can tell us what groups are better or worse off than the year before. Lauren Bauer sheds light on some of these groups in her new report:

There were a few notable shifts in the composition of who is poor from 2016 to 2017, including among working-age labor force participants (-1.1 percentage points change in share of those living in poverty) and children (-.4 percentage points change in share). By contrast, students (+.6 percentage points), seniors (+.5 percentage points), and early retirees (+.4 percentage points) all became slightly larger portions of the total population living in poverty.

Bauer recognizes that there may be a specific reason that groups such as seniors and students are not reaping the low poverty rates associated with low unemployment.

The overall decline in poverty—to be expected as the labor market strengthens—is certainly encouraging. However, the fact that so many of the poor face significant barriers to working their way out of poverty (e.g., caregivers, students, and the disabled) suggests that more targeted interventions are necessary. And while the strong job market continues to reduce the share of those living in poverty who are working part-time, there nevertheless remain millions of Americans who are working full-time all year but at wages insufficient to lift them out of poverty.


New findings on families using housing vouchers
Housing vouchers are an important part of the safety net. They give families stability, can help them move to neighborhoods with more opportunity and keep them from homelessness. But little research exists on how families are using these vouchers and where they are living. Alicia Mazzara and Brian Knudson of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities have released a paper that looks at how families with children are using vouchers across the 50 largest metro areas in the United State to help housing advocates, policymakers and legislators identify ways to improve local housing issues. Mazzara and Knudson explain why housing is a vital policy issue:

An emerging body of research finds that living in lower-poverty neighborhoods has important benefits for families, including improved academic performance for children and higher employment and earnings among adults.[12] For instance, moving to a lower-poverty neighborhood while young can sharply increase children’s earnings in adulthood and chances of attending college and can reduce girls’ likelihood of becoming single mothers.[13] Studies have also consistently found that living in high-poverty neighborhoods with low-performing schools and high rates of violent crime harms families’ well-being and children’s long-term outcomes.[14]

The main findings by Mazzaro and Knudson are that housing vouchers continue to be used for housing in high-poverty neighborhoods with little opportunity, even while units in low-poverty neighborhoods may exist. Policy recommendations include: increasing voucher-affordable units in low-poverty communities, advance the goals of the Fair Housing Act to combat systemic racism in housing caused by redlining and other practices, develop a regional housing mobility program to help families take advantage of rentals in low-poverty communities.  


Number of the Day
15 – The percentage of children in need ages 0-3 served by early childhood programs in Louisiana. (Source: NOLA.com)