Restaurants employ more than 10 million people, more than half of them women, with women earning less than men even within the same occupation (i.e. a woman makes less waiting on tables than does a man). There's also significant occupational clustering by race, with blacks disproportionately having the lowest-paying jobs such as cashiers/counter attendants and Latinos disproportionately likely to have low-paying jobs like dishwasher and dining room attendant.
- One in six restaurant workers, or 16.7 percent, live below the official poverty line. The poverty rate for workers outside the restaurant industry is more than 10 percentage points lower, at 6.3 percent.
- Twice the official poverty threshold is commonly used by researchers as a measure of what it takes for a family to make ends meet. More than two in five restaurant workers, or 43.1 percent, live below twice the poverty line—more than twice the 19.9 percent share outside the restaurant industry.
This appalling situation, with so many workers in near-poverty, needs policy solutions. A tipped minimum wage higher than the current level of $2.13 an hour is the obvious first step, but Shierholz points to other policy changes that would improve the situation: extending overtime protections to cover more workers, comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship for undocumented workers, passing paid sick leave, cracking down on "just in time" scheduling, and cracking down on wage theft, among others. Policies, it almost goes without saying, that Republicans oppose and Democrats generally support.