Geography, Equity, and the Seattle $15 Minimum Wage Ordinance

The Team

Data Science Leads: Jose Hernandez and Valentina Staneva

DSSG Fellows: James Lamar Foster, Delaney Glass, Christopher Salazar, Mahader Tamene

Project Lead: Jennie Romich

Project Summary

At a broad level, this project examines the Seattle (occupied Coast Salish land of the Duwamish, Suquamish, Stillaguamish, and Muckleshoot Tribes) $15 minimum wage as a solution to income inequality. In 2014, Seattle was the first major city to pass a $15 minimum wage. Policymakers hoped that higher wages for low-paid workers would reduce inequality and poverty and make Seattle workers and their families better off. However, the phase-in of Seattle’s $15 wage coincided with another economic jolt—the rapid influx of tens of thousands of high-paid technology workers. These new arrivals needed housing. Rental prices climbed rapidly, and large swaths of the city quickly gentrified. As a result, low-wage workers were likely priced out of Seattle housing just as the raise to $15 took effect. Understanding these coincinding events has important implications for how policymakers approach minimum wage increases. Using rich longitudinal data, our project explores the impacts of Seattle’s $15 minimum wage ordinance on Seattle low-wage workers in the context of the city’s coinciding tech boom.