some federal assistance*
* Receipt of some federal assistance indicates the worker or worker's family receives income from federal housing subsidies; the earned income tax credit (EITC); energy subsidies (LIHEAP); school lunch subsidies; SNAP (food stamps); or the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
Note:?Average values are the sum of reported dollar values or imputed fair market values for all programs. Figures are in 2013 dollars, deflated by CPI-U-RS.
Source:?Authors' analysis of Current Population Survey Annual Social and Economic Supplement microdata, 2010–2012
We have shown thus far that tipped workers are subject to low pay, low levels of total family income, and a greater likelihood of being in poverty. It is also the case that tipped workers are much less likely to have workplace benefits, as shown in?Figure F. The Bureau of Labor Statistics National Compensation Survey (NCS) reports benefits for all private-sector workers and benefits by various establishment and worker characteristics, including a breakout for “accommodation and food services (AFS)”—a sector with the majority of tipped workers.14 The NCS reports that two of the most common benefits offered to workers are paid vacations and paid holidays—each offered to 77.0 percent of private-sector workers. But among workers in accommodation and food services, just 45.0 percent and 36.0 percent are offered paid vacations and paid holidays, respectively—and these figures are for all workers in that industry, including managers and supervisors.
|All private-sector workers||Workers in accommodation and food services (AFS)|
|Paid sick leave||61%||23%|
Note: These data represent all workers within the accommodation and food services sector, including managers and supervisors. It is likely that these shares would be much lower if they reflected?access for tipped workers only.
Source:?U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics National Compensation Survey 2013 data
Health care and retirement benefits are crucial to most workers, but they are offered to just a fraction of AFS workers—30.0 percent and 27.0 percent, respectively, compared with 70.0 percent and 64.0 percent, respectively, of other private-sector workers. Given that the majority of tipped workers are wait staff and bartenders who handle food and drink, it is particularly unfortunate—and potentially dangerous—that their industry does not provide widespread access to paid sick leave; just 23.0 percent of AFS workers receive paid sick leave, compared with 61.0 percent of the total private-sector workforce.
As we’ve shown, many tipped workers are parents—many single parents—with low family incomes; thus, life insurance and short-term disability protection would be particularly important to these workers and their families, especially given the physical nature of their work. Life insurance and short-term disability protection are offered to 57.0 percent and 40.0 percent of private-sector workers, yet only 17.0 percent and 19.0 percent, respectively, of AFS workers.
Again, while the shares of workers in the broad category of accommodation and food services (which includes managers, supervisors, etc.) who have access to these benefits are very low, we would likely find that the shares of tipped workers and waiters/bartenders with access are even lower, if such data were available.15
Tipped workers face a number of other unique challenges in the workplace. As mentioned earlier, in states that allow for a subminimum wage, a tipped worker’s tips plus her base or tipped wage must equal at least the regular state minimum wage—if not, her employer must make up the difference. However, tipped workers are often unaware that their tips and base wage must sum to at least the regular minimum wage. This regulation is hard to implement in practice, both because it is logistically difficult to do so and because it is up to the worker to request that her employer make up the difference. To determine compliance with the FLSA’s wage requirements, the total of tips plus the subminimum base wage is to be assessed on a workweek basis.16 A workweek is defined as any fixed and regularly recurring 168-hour period. But many tipped workers work irregular schedules, and the practical implementation of this regulation is unclear; at what point does an employer stop the clock to tally up hours, tips, and base wages? Compliance is difficult to assess even if a good-faith employer would like to do so.
Moreover, a tipped employee seeking to monitor her employer’s compliance with the law would need to record her hours for the determined workweek—erratic schedules notwithstanding—record all tips she receives (how employees should treat tips shared with other staff, such as restaurant bussers or bar-backs, in this calculation is also unclear), record the base wage she was paid from her employer, and calculate if the effective hourly rate equaled the required state or federal minimum wage. If it did not, this employee would have to approach her employer seeking the missing pay. Of course, this is the same employer who determines whether this employee will be given the most lucrative shifts, the best restaurant sections (in the case of waiters and waitresses), or if the employee will retain her job at all. It is unrealistic to think that a tipped employee dealing with an unscrupulous employer would be able to reclaim her lost wages, let alone confront someone with such power over her near-term financial health.
Indeed, the restaurant industry is fraught with violations. In the most recent (2010–2012) compliance sweep of nearly 9,000 full-service restaurants by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD), 83.8 percent of investigated restaurants had some type of violation. In total, WHD recovered $56.8 million in back wages for nearly 82,000 workers and assessed $2.5 million in civil money penalties. Violations included 1,170 tip credit infractions that resulted in nearly $5.5 million in back wages.17
Research has also shown that the practice of tipping is often discriminatory, with white service workers receiving larger tips than black service workers for the same quality of service (Lynn et al. 2008). The worker advocacy group Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United has published numerous testimonies from both tipped and non-tipped workers in the restaurant industry that anecdotally describe these problems. ROCs “Behind the Kitchen Door” worker survey reports echo what is found in much of the data presented here: Workers report an array of problems, from low earnings and low to no benefits, to overtime violations, working off the clock, and issues of safety (ROC various years; Jayaraman 2013).
The results obtained here are informative for policy. The Harkin–Miller minimum-wage bill proposes to increase the regular federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 in three 95-cent steps. The bill would also reconnect the severed historical link between the tipped and the regular minimum wages by raising the former to 70 percent of the latter over six years. This would certainly improve the situation for tipped workers, adding greater stability to their income and boosting their total pay. Contrary to claims from industry advocates, research has shown that increasing the tipped minimum wage would boost earnings for tipped-wage workers without unduly harming employment, particularly full-service restaurant employment (Allegretto 2013).
Yet given all the problems that the current two-tiered wage system creates, it appears prudent to simply do away with the tipped minimum wage and have tipped workers nationwide be paid the regular minimum wage. Industry advocates may claim that this would be damaging for businesses that employ tipped workers, but the data do not support this claim. From January 1995 to May 2014, employment in the leisure and hospitality sector—a sector with a high concentration of tipped workers—grew by 41 percent nationwide, far faster than total U.S. nonfarm employment growth of roughly 19 percent. Over that period, leisure and hospitality employment grew 43.2 percent in the seven “equal treatment” states without subminimum wages, compared with 39.2 percent growth in the 43 states (plus the District of Columbia) that have lower minimum wages for tipped workers.18 In other words, the sector that comprises the bulk of tipped employment actually grew faster in states where tipped workers received the regular minimum wage than it did in states with a lower tipped minimum wage.19 Moreover, the restaurant industry itself projects higher growth rates in these “equal treatment” states than in those with subminimum wages (National Restaurant Association 2014).20
This report explored the history and rationale for the subminimum wage earned by workers who receive tips for their services. The federal tipped minimum wage was originally set at 50 percent of the regular minimum wage. Today, the subminimum wage for tipped workers is a mere $2.13 an hour, where it has been for 23 years. Over that time, its value has eroded to just 29.4 percent of the regular minimum wage that applies to non-tipped workers. Still, many states have enacted tipped minimum wages above $2.13. This report shows that tipped workers receive higher total wages and have lower levels of poverty in states where the tipped minimum wage is relatively high.
Often, discussion and action surrounding the minimum wage ignores or excludes tipped workers and the subminimum wage they receive. Yet this is a growing occupational sector, and effective policy could transform the low-wage, high-poverty jobs in the sector into better quality jobs. Much of tipped employment is the epitome of “just-in-time” employment—adjusting staffing levels on an immediate basis in response to customer flows. While this may be good for the employer, it is far less beneficial for workers because it can produce highly unpredictable work hours, and thus highly unpredictable pay. Wage volatility is further exacerbated by workers’ reliance on tips from customers, which also vary considerably. A tipped worker’s paycheck can vary wildly depending on the fluctuations of customer tips and assigned shifts, making it difficult for tipped workers to budget, or make investments that require more stable and predictable income levels—such as buying a home or a car, or seeking further education.
In real terms, the U.S. minimum and subminimum wage floors have long been in decline, exacerbating the general stagnation or decline of wages for the vast majority of American workers, particularly low-wage workers. Even the broader world is taking notice, as the International Monetary Fund (2014) recently recommended that the U.S. minimum wage be increased, given its current low level (compared both with its historical values and international standards). The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (2014) has also recommended an increase in the U.S. minimum wage as a measure to improve job quality and workers’ well-being. Reports from the Congressional Budget Office (2014) as well as research from academia (Dube 2013) conclude that raising the wage floor would lift hundreds of thousands, if not millions, out of poverty.
For all these reasons, it is perhaps no surprise that polling consistently shows that most Americans (73 percent) would like to see a minimum-wage hike (Pew Research Center 2014). To the best of our knowledge, there has not been a poll conducted specifically on changing the $2.13 tipped wage, but in all likelihood, this is simply another indication of the lack of public awareness on this issue. We cannot help but wonder whether, if more Americans knew the exceptionally low base wages being paid to tipped workers, they might prefer these employers pay tipped workers a higher base wage, and let tips once again be simply an expression of gratitude for good service. We suspect most would agree that the consumer subsidy to these employers has grown for too long.
It is certainly time to raise both wage floors, but given the dramatic differences in living standards for tipped versus non-tipped workers, we question whether there should be a two-tiered wage system at all. Tipped workers in the seven “equal treatment” states appear to be noticeably better off than their counterparts in the rest of the country, receiving higher total wages and experiencing poverty at significantly lower rates. At the same time, industries that employ tipped workers in these states are thriving. Raising the tipped minimum wage up to a higher percentage of the regular minimum wage would be a step in the right direction, but perhaps we should simply eliminate the tipped minimum wage altogether, and give tipped workers the same basic protection afforded to other workers.
—?The Economic Policy Institute gratefully acknowledges the generous support it received from the Ford Foundation for this project.
Sylvia A. Allegretto, Ph.D.?is an economist and co-director of the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics at the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California, Berkeley. She is also a research associate of the Economic Policy Institute and is co-author of many EPI publications, including past editions of?The State of Working America,?How Does Teacher Pay Compare?,?and?The Teaching Penalty: Teacher Pay Losing Ground.
The Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics is a center at the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment at the University of California, Berkeley. CWED was established in 2007 to provide a focus for research projects on wage and employment dynamics in contemporary labor markets. Current research topics include minimum wage impacts, tipped worker labor markets, transformation of retail labor markets, health insurance and health policy, immigration, worker turnover and job training, labor relations and productivity, and models of low-wage labor markets.
David Cooper?is an economic analyst with the Economic Policy Institute. He conducts national and state-level research on a variety of issues, including the minimum wage, employment and unemployment, poverty, and wage and income trends. He also provides support to the?Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN)?on data-related inquiries and quantitative analyses. David has been interviewed and cited by local and national media for his research on the minimum wage, poverty, and U.S. economic trends. His graduate research focused on international development policy and intergenerational social mobility. He holds a Master of Public Policy degree from Georgetown University.
The?Economic Policy Institute?is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank that seeks to broaden the public debate about strategies to achieve a prosperous and fair economy. EPI stresses real-world analysis and a concern for the living standards of working people, and it makes its findings accessible to the general public, the media, and policymakers through books, studies, and popular education materials.
Appendix Table A1?shows each state’s minimum-wage and tipped-minimum-wage level, as of January 1, 2014.
|State||Regular minimum wage||Tip credit for employers||Tipped minimum wage||Tipped minimum as a share of regular minimum wage|
|District of Columbia||9.50||6.73||2.77||29.2%|
* Connecticut has a higher $7.34 tipped minimum wage for bartenders only.
** New York has a tipped minimum wage of $5.00 for "food service workers" and $5.65 for "service employees."
Note:?For states that do not have a state minimum wage or a minimum wage that is less than the federal minimum, we report the federal standards because most workers in these states are legally required to be paid the federal rate.
Source:?Authors' analysis of U.S. Department of Labor (2014)
The Current Population Survey does not explicitly identify tipped workers. Rather, there is a variable that indicates workers who regularly receive tips, overtime, or commissions. In order to identify workers who are likely to be tipped, we first looked at all occupations that had a high share receiving tips, overtime, or commissions. From this group, we selected those occupations that were most likely to receive tips, as shown in?Appendix Table A2.
|Occupation||?Employment||?Share of tipped workers||?Median wage||?10th percentile wage||?Women||?Women as a share of employment|
|All workers, tipped and non-tipped occupations||?127,063,149||?–||?$16.48||?$8.45||?61,377,151||48.3%|
|Predominantly tipped occupations|
|Waiters and waitresses||2,122,427||48.9%||$9.93||$5.71||1,492,454||70.3%|
|Dining room, cafeteria attendants, and bartender helpers in hospitality industries||244,953||5.6%||$8.79||$6.46||72,763||29.7%|
|Hosts and hostesses, restaurant, lounge, and coffee shop||283,677||6.5%||$8.64||$ 6.87||242,305||85.4%|
|Gaming service workers||106,252||2.4%||$14.69||$7.93||51,478||48.4%|
|Hairdressers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists||483,312||11.1%||$11.90||$7.10||455,006||94.1%|
|Miscellaneous personal appearance workers||227,634||5.2%||$10.80||$7.24||187,776||82.5%|
|Personal care and service workers, all other||73,854||1.7%||$10.24||$7.18||35,826||48.5%|
|Taxi drivers and chauffeurs||260,901||6.0%||$11.95||$7.52||38,207||14.6%|
|Total predominantly tipped workers||4,343,264||100.0%||$10.22||$6.49||2,890,915||66.6%|
Note:?The tipped occupations listed here, and used in this report, are the same as those used in CBO (2014).
Source:?Authors' analysis of Current Population Survey Outgoing Rotation Group microdata, pooled sample 2011–2013
1. Legislation originally enacted in 1966 required that a worker had to customarily and regularly earn at least $20 a month in tips for their employers to qualify for the tip credit. This was raised to $30 a month in 1978. Adjusted for inflation, that $20 minimum would now be about $146.34 per month.
2. If a tipped employee’s tips plus her base wage do not sum to at least the full minimum wage in any two-week period, the tipped worker’s employer is required to make up the difference through a higher base wage; however, as explained in later sections, this intended safeguard is fraught with problems.
3. Authors’ analysis of Current Population Survey Outgoing Rotation Group microdata, 2013
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages data, 1990Q1 to 2013Q1
5. Authors’ analysis of Local Area Unemployment Statistics data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics
6. For more historical information, see Allegretto and Filion (2011).
7. The scenarios are always changing as federal and/or state wage polices are adopted; the map depicts the wage policies as of January 1, 2014. Some states have already legislated both regular and tipped-minimum-wage increases that will occur over the next several years.
8. There are variations within state policy. For example, Nevada, a no tip credit state, has a wage floor of $7.25 for workers with or $8.25 without employer-provided health insurance.
9. It is important to keep in mind that not all tipped workers have been identified because the Current Population Survey does not have a unique identifier for such a distinction. The CPS includes a variable that identifies persons who usually receive “overtime pay, tips or commissions.” Likely tipped workers were identified using this variable along with additional analysis. There are other workers, especially in the restaurant industry or food service occupations (such as bussers, delivery workers, and runners) who may also be tipped workers—even though their tips may come indirectly from wait staff, instead of directly from customers.
10. In Allegretto and Filion (2011), we included slightly fewer occupational categories as predominantly tipped occupations. White House (2014) uses this slightly smaller set of predominantly tipped occupations as well; however, CBO (2014) employs the broader set of tipped occupations listed in Appendix Table A2. We analyzed demographic characteristics, wage rates, poverty rates, and public transfer receipt rates between the two sets of predominantly tipped occupations and found that they were not substantially different, and thus opted to use the set of occupations consistent with the CBO’s definition of tipped workers.
11. All wage values in this report reflect total wages, i.e., base wages plus tips.
12. In 2013, the 30th percentile wage for U.S. workers was $12.00, according to data from the Current Population Survey.
13. These findings are similar to those in Fast Food, Poverty Wages by Allegretto et al. (2013a). In that paper, it was estimated that 25 percent of working families rely on public benefits (Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program [CHIP], federal EITC, SNAP, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families [TANF]), while the share rises considerably to 52 percent among fast-food workers and their families. That study was restricted to workers who worked at least 27 weeks per year and at least 10 hours per week. Using the same data and methodology from the fast-food worker study, we estimate that 40 percent of tipped workers and their families, and 42 percent of waiters/bartenders and their families, receive public benefits to make ends meet—again compared with 24 percent of working families in general.
14. The industry sector of accommodation and food services captures many tipped workers but also non-tipped workers and staff such as managers who are likely to have higher wages and benefits. These data are from an unpublished NCS report on 2013 benefits (forthcoming in 2014).
15. We requested figures from the BLS for tipped workers and/or wait staff from the NCS, but sample sizes were too small for these populations by themselves.
16. See, e.g., 29 U.S.C. 206(a) in the FLSA (http://bit.ly/1qoLKwH).
17. Email correspondence with U.S. Department of Labor program analysts from the Wage and Hour Division
18. Authors’ analysis of Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics
19. We do not mean to imply any sort of causal relationship here, and looking at changes in specific industries within the leisure and hospitality sector or over different timeframes might yield different results. There are undoubtedly other factors correlated with state tipped-wage policies influencing employment growth between these groups of states. A more precise inquiry into the relationship between tipped-wage policies and employment that controls for these factors is beyond the scope of this paper. However, Allegretto (2014) examines this specific question with an appropriate set of controls and finds no significant effect on employment from higher tipped minimum wages. The relevant point here is that if paying the regular minimum wage to tipped workers were significantly harmful to these industries, we would expect these harmful effects to be readily apparent—and they are not.
20. For more information, see ROC United (2014).
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