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Who Works Minimum Wage Jobs In San Diego?

Photo by Tarryn Mento / KPBS

Above: Debra Flores, an employee at Wendy's in downtown San Diego, stands amid protestors at a rally for an increase of the minimum wage, Aug. 29, 2013.

San Diego's low wage earners are mostly young, single Latinos or whites with limited educations, according to a study released Wednesday by the National University System Institute for Policy Research.

The study was done in light of efforts to raise San Diego's minimum wage beyond the state-mandated $8 per hour. City Council President Todd Gloria wants incremental increases to $13.09 an hour.

Using recently released data from the American Community Survey, the Institute for Policy Research found that about 28 percent of the roughly 691,000 wage earners 15 or older earn the equivalent of a full-time minimum wage salary, and 37 percent earn the equivalent of $11 an hour or lower.

More than half of low-wage workers are 30 years old or younger. Those 21 or younger make up 22 percent.

Latinos and whites together make up about 38 percent of the total, where Latinos are about 30 percent of the city population and 28 percent of the workforce.

Among low-wage workers, 31 percent are married while 57 percent have never been married. Fifty-two percent are women, even though women only make up 46 percent of the overall workforce.

The study found that while 59 percent of the working poor are renters, 27 percent pay a mortgage and 6 percent own a home free and clear. The rate of homeownership overall in the city is 48 percent, according to the study.

Restaurants, schools, colleges and universities employ the vast majority of low-wage workers in San Diego, according to the report. Among the lowest paid were cashiers, retail salespeople, cooks, waiters and waitresses, janitors, customer service representatives and personal care aides.

"San Diego's low wage earners are diverse, complex, and have varying levels of education and household income," the report said.

"Future references to low wage earners in policy debates should avoid painting the workforce in broad brush strokes, as that would egregiously ignore important nuances and differences among workers."

The study concluded more data was needed before economic policy changes are considered. Gloria hopes to place a referendum on raising the minimum wage on the November ballot.

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