August 25, 2003
Last year, about 570,000 American workers reported earning exactly $5.15 per hour, the prevailing Federal minimum wage, and another 1.6 million reported with wages below the minimum. Together, these 2.2 million workers made up 3.0 percent of all hourly-paid workers.
Minimum wage workers tend to be young. About half of workers earning $5.15 or less were under age 25, and slightly more than one-fourth were age 16-19. Among teenagers, 10 percent earned $5.15 or less.
About 4 percent of women paid hourly rates reported wages at or below the prevailing Federal minimum, compared with about 2 percent of men.
Part-time workers (persons who usually work less than 35 hours per week) were much more likely than their full-time counterparts to be paid $5.15 or less (about 8 percent versus about 2 percent). About 1 in 10 workers putting in fewer than 15 hours per week earned the minimum or less.
These data are derived from the Current Population Survey. It should be noted that the presence of a sizable number of workers with reported wages below the minimum does not necessarily indicate violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, as there are exemptions to the minimum wage provision of the law. Also, among those with reported wages below the minimum in 2002, almost 500,000 reported earning exactly $5.00 per hour; to some extent, this may reflect rounding in the responses of survey participants. Learn more in Characteristics of Minimum Wages Workers: 2002.