Restaurant Workers Live Close To Poverty Line, Study Finds

A study conducted by the Economic Policy Institute which looked at labor in the restaurant industry throughout the United States found that over 43 percent of all restaurant workers are living at or below twice the poverty line.

Almost half of those workers, 6 to 25 percent (approximately) of all workers in the industry from cashiers and dishwashers to managers, are living at or below the poverty level.

Currently, the U.S. restaurant industry employs 5.5 million women and 5.1 million men, nearly a quarter of whom are waitstaff with an average wage of $10.15 an hour, including tips. The industry's highest-paid employees are managers, who have an average wage of $15.42 an hour, the study found.

Other key findings from the study include the fact that nearly twice as many undocumented workers are employed within the restaurant industry than not (15.7 percent in the industry compared to 8.2 percent outside the industry), and that only 14.4 percent of restaurant employees had access to employer-provided healthcare, compared to 48.7 percent of workers in other industries.

Even after applying controls for demographics which have lower wages on average in any industry (e.g., women, non-naturalized immigrants, those with a high school degree or less, racial and ethnic minorities, and young workers), the study found that restaurant employees were subject to the "wage penalty," according to which, even taking into account "the difference between the hourly wages earned by a restaurant worker and those earned by a demographically similar worker in another industry," restaurant workers are paid about 17 percent less than their non-food service industry counterparts.

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Karen Lo is an associate editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @appleplexy