Backers of the proposal to increase the state minimum wage from $8.50 an hour are touting a new study on the idea from the National Employment Law Project. It says it would improve the quality of life for 300,000 people from all 75 Arkansas counties.

One in every four workers would benefit, says the Law Project, a union-backed, New York-based nonprofit founded more than 40 years ago.


A higher minimum wage would allow workers across Arkansas to cope with the rising cost of basic necessities, such as housing, food, transportation, and healthcare. Even in Arkansas’ smallest county, Calhoun County,[2] a single adult needs to make $33,403 per year to afford a modest standard of living, [3] though the yearly income for a full-time worker (40 hours a week) at the current $8.50 minimum wage[4] is only $17,680.

The report says the increase would help small businesses, too.

Research shows that higher wages lead to increased spending, which, in turn, has the effect of boosting the demand for goods and services[6] and keeping money circulating in the economy—creating a virtuous cycle that benefits a broad constituency.

In 26 counties with large rural areas and smaller population, the percentage of workers helped would be more than 30 percent, the study says.


The report notes that, despite high employment, wages haven’t grown in a commensurate fashion.

With job growth skewed towards low-paying occupations over the past decade, there has been growing national momentum for action to raise the minimum wage. Although the U.S. median household income is slowly climbing from the depths of the Great Recession,[9] hourly wages continue to stay flat or decline for most of the labor force, even amidst the economic recovery and a full employment economy. The worsening prospects and opportunities for low-wage workers have prompted a growing number of cities, counties, and states to enact higher minimum wage rates for their residents, often with overwhelming support from voters.

The proposal would raise the minimum to $11 an hour by 2021. The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce, which represents the state’s biggest businesses, is fighting to get the measure knocked off the ballot.


Here’s the full report.