Fast food is a $200 billion-a-year industry. The median wage for core front-line workers at fast-food restaurants nationally is $8.69 an hour. Only 13 percent of the jobs provide health benefits.
The researchers found that the fast-food industry’s low wages and meager benefits, often accompanied by part-time hours, combine to create substantial public-assistance needs, including:
- Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, $3.9 billion per year
- Earned Income Tax Credit payments, $1.95 billion per year
- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, $1.04 billion per year
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, $82 million per year
The states where the fast-food industry’s low wages cost U.S. taxpayers the most include California at $717 million, New York at $708 million, Texas at $556 million, Illinois at $368 million and Florida at $348 million. A breakdown of other states for which data are available is in the report, “Fast Food, Poverty Wages: The Public Cost of Low-Wage Jobs in the Fast-Food Industry.”