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Reducing Crime by Raising Wages

Fast-food workers from Maryland were in Virginia this weekend to rally and march for a higher minimum wage. (Flickr.com)
Fast-food workers from Maryland were in Virginia this weekend to rally and march for a higher minimum wage. (Flickr.com)
August 15, 2016

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Fast food workers from Maryland took part in a national march and rally in Virginia to call for a $15 per hour minimum wage - and research shows a higher wage could have benefits that reach far beyond families' monthly budgets.

A report by the White House Council of Economic Advisors found that raising the federal minimum wage could lead to reductions in crime. Rebecca Vallas, managing director of the Poverty to Prosperity Program at the Center for American Progress, said expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit to include adults without dependents could cut crime rates even further.

"Policies that raise wages,” Vallas said, "whether raising the minimum wage or expanding the EITC - ideally both, because those two policies go hand in hand - can both prevent recidivism and lower the rate of first-time offenses. "

Maryland's minimum wage is $8.25 an hour, a dollar more than the national rate, but advocates say that's not nearly enough for families to make ends meet. According to The Center for American Progress, an estimated 70 million to 100 million Americans have criminal records, and nearly half of all children have a parent with a criminal record.

It's simple math, Vallas said. If people make enough to make ends meet, they're less likely to take desperate measures that land them in jail, which can have lifelong consequences.

"That really means that now, research shows that a comprehensive criminal justice reform agenda must not only include addressing barriers to employment for workers with criminal records,” Vallas said, "it should also include policies to ensure that jobs pay a fair living wage."

Twenty-nine states, plus the District of Columbia and some cities have raised their minimum wage above the federal level of $7.25 per hour. Residents of the remaining 21 states have been stuck at $7.25 for seven years.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MD