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By Kaitlin DeWulf November 13, 2015

Clinton says most minimum-wage workers are women

Hillary Clinton has been campaigning hard to win the votes of women nationwide. Recently, she made a bold statement on women in the working world.

In a Sept. 18 speech at a roundtable on women's economic security in Washington, she said women make up two-thirds of minimum wage workers.

The former secretary of state went on to claim those women are left "at the mercy of employers."

"Without equal pay, without flexibility or predictability at work, without access to quality, affordable childcare, without (the) ability to take a day off if your child or aging parent is sick, without paid family or medical leave," Clinton said. "This woman is really on the brink."

We wondered if her figures were right. Could women really make up that large a share of minimum wage workers?

A look at the numbers

We contacted the Clinton campaign, and it pointed to a report published by the National Women's Law Center in May 2015 for a bulk of its evidence. The report presents highlights and statistical tables describing minimum wage workers in 2014.

The report found that women represent close to but not quite two-thirds of minimum wage workers across the country, and at least half of minimum wage workers in every state. The center looked at unpublished U.S. Labor Department data for all wage and salary workers for 2014.

Estimates from the study put 1.9 million women workers at or below minimum wage out of 2.9 million total – about 62.7 percent – age 16 and older.

This represents an increase of 0.4 percent from 62.3 in 2013, the report said.

When we went to the department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics to verify the figures for ourselves, we found out that only 59 percent of workers actually making the federal minimum wage are women. That’s because some workers, like those who earn tips, can legally be paid a lower wage.

Clinton has stressed her proposals would also result in a raise for those tipped workers – such as restaurant servers and bartenders.

"Women hold nearly three-quarters of the jobs that are reliant on tips," she said.

In addition, the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour would leave a single mother below the poverty line. While 29 states and the District of Columbia currently have higher minimum wages, the center found that in every one of those states, the minimum wage leaves a full-time worker with two children near or below the poverty level.

But what does it mean?

Economists say the claim raises another question: Who will benefit if the minimum wage is increased?

Data from the liberal Economic Policy Institute, show that 55.9 percent of those who would receive a raise under Clinton’s proposal are women. That’s a solid majority, but well below two-thirds.

Chris Tilly, director of the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, said that makes Clinton’s statement misleading.

University of Iowa Associate Professor of Political Science Timothy Hagle said that Clinton’s claim may fall under campaign hyperbole.

He said the data used by the Clinton campaign is filled with qualifiers, such as "about" and "nearly," that make it difficult to check concrete calculations.

"(The law center report) gives Clinton a bit of an out in that she can inflate her comment based on this data," Hagle said. "Rather than that of some other entity."

Our ruling

Clinton said, "Women hold two-thirds of minimum wage jobs."

Her campaign referred us to a credible May 2015 study that supports her claim. According to the study, 62.7 percent of minimum wage workers age 16 and older are women.  That’s almost, but not quite, two thirds.

In addition, that study ignored complexities like minimum wage workers in places that have a higher wage already and who would benefit from changes relating to tips.

Clinton is largely on point with her numbers. We rate her claim Mostly True.

Our Sources

Economic Policy Institute, "Raising the Minimum Wage to $12 by 2020 Would Lift Wages For 35 Million American Workers."

PolitiFact, "Cokie Roberts: Two-thirds of minimum-wage earners are women."

National Women's Law Center, "Women and the Minimum Wage, State by State."

Washington Post, "Who actually makes the minimum wage in America today."

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Characteristics of Minimum Wage Workers, 2013."

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Characteristics of Minimum Wage Workers, 2014."

U.S. Bureau Labor Statistics, "Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey."

Committee on Education and the Workforce Democrats, "Minimum Wage: Scott, Murray Introduce the Raise the Wage Act."

Email interview with Chris Tilly, director of the UCLA institute for research on labor and employment, Sept. 28, 2015.

Email interview with Timothy Hagle, University of Iowa associate professor of Political Science, Nov. 10, 2015.


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