The current federal minimum wage in the United States is historically low and unable to meet the needs of low-income Americans, according to a report released this month by Georgetown University’s Center on Poverty and Inequality and the Leadership Conference Education Fund.

The thesis of the report, entitled “Improving Wages, Improving Lives: Why Raising the Minimum Wage is a Civil and Human Rights Issue” asserted that the minimum wage affects minority groups at disproportionately high levels.

“While its wide range means today’s low minimum wage — including the tipped minimum wage harms a diverse range of people in America, it nevertheless disproportionately impacts people of color, women, LGBTQ individuals and other disadvantaged groups,” the introduction to the report states.

The report explained that minimum wage level jobs are disproportionately held by women and individuals of color. Michael Kirkpatrick, co-director of the Institute for Public Representation at the Georgetown University Law Center, explained that even without explicit discrimination, educational requirements set by employers effectively eliminate minorities and people of low income from consideration, leaving them stuck at the minimum wage level.

“Certain groups have a lower level of educational achievement, for example, and an employer has a minimum education requirement to get a certain job then that is going to disproportionally eliminate the minority candidates for that job and they will be left in the low-wage economy,” Kirkpatrick said.

Over 3 million workers work minimum wage jobs. The report pointed to the disparity between the cost of living and the minimum wage, which currently stands at $7.25 at the federal level, which translates to an annual income of $15,080, well below the poverty line for a family of two and down from the peak purchasing power of the minimum wage of $19,854 in 1968.

Center on Poverty and Inequality Senior Fellow Indivar Dutta-Gupta, the principal author of the report, noted that the federal minimum wage has been frozen at its current level since 2009, primarily due to a lack of bipartisan agreement in Congress.

“At the federal level you need Congress and the president to sign off and right now it’s virtually impossible to get anything significant passed in the Congress without 60 votes in the Senate. The reality is that there are not enough votes in the U.S Senate right now to result in a minimum wage increase,” Dutta-Gupta said.

In addition to federal partisanship, Dutta-Gupta also pointed to opposition from powerful industries and associations such as the National Restaurant Association, which cite concern over declines in employment and fewer benefits for employees.

“I think first of all the minimum wage increases under consideration now at the national level are very much within historical norms that suggest that there will be virtually no impact on employment. There is some chance that right now with the economy operating under capacity that a minimum wage increase could actually increase employment in the short run,” he said.

Although the federal minimum wage has not changed since 2009, 23 states and the District of Columbia have independently increased their price floors. On July 1, the District of Columbia raised its minimum wage to $9.50 and will increase it to $11.50 by 2016.

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