Obama Praises Wage Hikes for Upper-Middle Class Households

Average family income of minimum wage increase beneficiary in Connecticut is $80,125

President Barack Obama hugs Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy / AP

President Barack Obama praised a Connecticut law that helped boost wages for mostly middle and upper-middle class households during a Wednesday event at Central Connecticut State University.

Obama praised Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy for raising the state’s minimum wage to $9 per hour, starting in 2015. Malloy is now asking the legislature for a $10.10 wage—the same one Obama is pushing Congress to pass at the federal level.

"A year ago, I asked Congress to raise the minimum wage—the federal minimum wage. Since that time, six states have passed laws to raise theirs, including right here in Connecticut," Obama said. "On January 1st, tens of thousands of folks across this state got a raise. And Governor Malloy is working to lift their wages even higher."

Connecticut’s higher wages often end up in the pockets of wealthier residents, according to Michael Saltsman, research director of the Employment Policies Institute (EPI).

An EPI review of the state found that only 7.6 percent of beneficiaries in Connecticut will be single mothers, while the vast majority represent second or third earners. Seven in ten Connecticut beneficiaries live at home with their families and are not the main breadwinners.

"The average family income of a beneficiary is $80,125. Even the median income of a beneficiary is above $54,000 a year [the national median income]—so, half of all people who benefit are living in families making more than that," Saltsman said.

Obama praised Malloy and fellow New England governors for adopting higher wages and "fighting to give hardworking folks in these great New England states a raise."

"If they succeed in their efforts, New England will have some of the highest minimum wages in the country," he said to applause from students at Central Connecticut State University.

Obama failed to mention some of the negative economic effects of artificially inflated wages, according to Saltsman. Numerous academic studies have found that higher minimum wages eliminate thousands of jobs and leave less experienced workers jobless.

Nearly one in four Connecticut teens are unemployed.

Andy Markowski, state director for Connecticut’s National Federation of Independent Business, said that inflated minimum wages would hurt businesses, less experienced workers, and the unemployed at the state and national level. He said that the minimum wage is generally used for entry-level work.

"The majority of small business owners are in favor of good paying jobs for employees, and that’s why only a small percentage pay [minimum wage]," he said.