Over at the spiffy new FiveThirtyEight, Ben Casselman crunches the numbers on a minimum wage hike. Casselman finds that while a relatively small number of Americans actually earn the minimum wage, a whole lot of Americans are below President Obama's proposed national minimum wage of $10.10 an hour.
According to the survey, in 2013 more than 25 million people earned less than $10.10 an hour, which amounts to an annual salary of roughly $21,000. That’s nearly eight times the number of Americans who work for the current minimum wage of $7.25 an hour or less. Low-wage workers tend to be older than their minimum-wage counterparts: Nearly 60 percent, or 15 million Americans, of this group is 25 years old or older compared to about half of minimum-wage workers.
Casselman then tries to figure out how many of those workers are actually trying to support themselves on that annual salary:
...there were 13 million Americans, out of the 25 million low-wage earners, who were trying to support themselves on less than $10.10 per hour in 2013. Some 4.5 million of them were also raising children.
You should go read his methods, but it's safe to say the figure he comes up with is a modest guess; I think the number of Americans trying to support themselves on less than $10.10 an hour is actually a lot higher than 13 million. And even if it is "just" 13 million, that's a highly unhealthy statistic. We can't believably claim to be a prosperous country when so many Americans are trying to get by on so little.