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Low-Wage Workers. We estimate that 30 percent of California workers—roughly five million people—make less than $12.50 per hour currently. In this post, we refer to these people as “low-wage workers.” (Based on our estimates, this part of the workforce will be affected directly by the fully implemented statewide minimum wage.)

Low-Wage Workers Work in a Variety of Occupations. As shown in Figure 1, the two most common occupations for low-wage workers are sales and food preparation/service.

This figure displays the major occupations of low-wage workers in California.

Very Few Low-Wage Workers Are Teenagers. Figure 2 displays the estimated ages of California’s low-wage workers. More than 90 percent are over the age of 19. About 35 percent are over the age of 39.

This figure shows the distribution of low-wage workers' ages in California.

Very Few Low-Wage Workers Hold Multiple Jobs. Figure 3 displays estimates of other economic and demographic characteristics of California’s low-wage workers. About one-third of low-wage workers are the only workers in their families. Four percent report that they hold multiple jobs.

This figure shows various characteristics of California's low-wage workers.

Data Source: 2015-2016 Monthly Current Population Survey (CPS). The CPS is the federal government’s primary data source for unemployment rates and other labor market conditions. Minimum wage research often relies upon data from this survey, and we generally regard it as one of the best data sources for statewide analyses of low-wage workers. Like all survey data, however, the CPS has a variety of limitations. Due to these limitations, the actual numbers could be higher or lower than the estimates presented here. (We downloaded the CPS data for October 2015 through September 2016 from the National Bureau of Economic Research.)

For other posts in this series, click here.

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