Assignment: Write a 1 page thoughtful response that clearly draws on data
from this article: Should we raise the minimum wage?
Should We Raise the Minimum Wage? 11 Questions and Answers
By Jordan Weissmann
2013 was a good year for supporters of a higher minimum wage. States including New York, California, and New Jersey passed hikes. Residents of SeaTac, Washington, voted to turn their tiny city into a living economics experiment by increasing its minimum to $15 an hour. Washington, D.C., seems poised to raise its own wage. And President Obama threw his support behind a bill that would increase the federal minimum to $10.10 an hour and require it to rise with the cost of living.
You can expect to hear more liberal agitating for a higher wage in 2014. And of course, you can also expect to hear conservatives shout back that the idea is a job killer. To prepare you for the inevitable policy battle, here's our FAQ.
Just tell me if the minimum wage kills jobs or not.
Patience, young grasshopper. We'll get to that question. But let's ease in with some basics first.
Fine. What is the minimum wage anyway?
Ah, good place to start. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour…. By historical standards, it's fairly low. Thanks to inflation, the minimum today wage is worth a few dollars less than when its real value peaked in 1968.
That said, the federal minimum is only part of the national story. Today, 19 states and the District of Columbia have a higher wage floor. Meanwhile, New Jersey just became the 11th state to index theirs to the cost of living.
Note: California's minimum is actually set to rise later in July 2014.
(The American Prospect)
And of course, some local governments take things even further, like SeaTac with its $15 minimum.
How many people earn the minimum wage?
The short answer is: Not many. But in a way, that's also the wrong question.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1.57 million Americans, or 2.1 percent of the hourly workforce, earned the minimum wage in 2012. More than 60 percent of them either worked in retail or in leisure and hospitality, which is to say hotels and restaurants, including fast-food chains.
If you want to honestly debate the merits of raising the minimum wage, however, you need to think beyond who earns it today. After all, there are millions of workers making $8 or $9 an hour assembling burgers or changing sheets who might be affected by a hike. The Economic Policy Institute estimates that if Washington increased the minimum to $10.10 as Obama would like, some 21.3 million employees would eventually be guaranteed a raise, assuming they kept their jobs. (Another 11.1 million might theoretically benefit if companies adjusted their whole wage scales upwards, which is what the light blue section on the chart shows. But that might just be wishful thinking on EPI's part.)*
In the end, we're talking about a policy that would give somewhere around 11 percent of workers a raise.