The Minimum Wage Must be Raised

Ellie Barraclough Mrs. Miles ENGL 201 16 Nov 2018 The Minimum Wage Must Be Raised As of July 2009, the federal minimum wage has been $7.25, which is far too low to make a living. The minimum wage must be increased for the betterment of our country. In 2016, 701,000 workers above 16 were paid the minimum wage (Bureau of Labor Statistics). Raising the minimum wage will have an increase in employment, a decrease in poverty, allow people to afford basic necessities, and will reduce the race/gender inequality. Right now, our federal minimum wage is at $7.25 an hour. Before that, under the Bush administration, the federal minimum wage was at $5.85 in 2007, then raised to $6.55 an hour in 2008. In July 2009, the minimum wage was raised to $7.25 an hour under the Obama administration. Even though it has been continuously raised over the years, thousands of American workers are still struggling to survive off of the current instated minimum wage. Though I was not working full-time and living on my own, I had a job as a hostess when I was 16 and I was paid the federal minimum wage. They had me working two days a week and I worked less than ten hours a week. My paychecks were always less than 60 dollars. It just goes to show that getting paid $7.25 an hour does not get you much. At our current federal minimum wage of $7.25, a parent who works a full-time job year-round does not earn enough money to be classified as being above the federal poverty line, which determines a set income of money that varies by the size of your family to determine who is in poverty. As of 2010, a family of four that has no kids under 18 is $22,541 a year.

Ever since the Fair Minimum Wage Act bill was introduced by Senator Tom Harkin and Representative George Miller in 2013, which states that the federal minimum wage will raise in a total of three increments of 95 cents to get it from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour, five states California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island have raised their minimum wage to at least $10.10, which ended up helping millions of American workers. According to David Cooper, of the Economic Policy Institute, increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour would put $22.1 billion net into the economy, as well as create around 85,000 new jobs over a three-year period. This would result in 27.8 million workers getting their wages raised. In doing so, the income would lift for millions of workers in the United States, as well at increasing America’s Gross Domestic Product, which is estimated to grow by 22 billion dollars. Eric Levitz of New York Magazines concludes that in a study from Berkeley’s Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics that in the first six major U.S. cities to implement the minimum above $10 an hour Chicago, District of Columbia, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle, the job growth was either steady or it increased by 1.3 to 2.5 percent. Raising the minimum wage will help people out of poverty. Those working full time while earning the federal minimum wage will only earn about $15,080 a year, which is only 20 percent higher than the 2015 poverty level of $12,331 for a household of one individual under the age of 65, but 8 percent below the poverty level in 2015 for a single-parent family with a child under the age of 18. A person living off of $15,000 a year barely has enough money to pay rent, as well as barely having enough cash to buy food, clothes, water, etc. Being in poverty can also hurt the economy. Since these people cannot spend a lot of money, you have a lesser demand for goods and not enough money to produce certain products.

The average person earns about $56,000 dollars a year. That is a frightening difference in $41,000 dollars with a person who is only earning 15K a year. According to a report done by the Congressional Budget Office in 2014, if the minimum wage were to be increased to $9 an hour, it would relieve 300,000 people out of poverty, and increasing it to $10.10 would lift 900,000 American’s out of poverty. Mike Konczal of The Washington Post reports that if the minimum wage were to be raised from $7.25 to $8, It would decrease the number of people living in poverty by 2.4 percent. Raising the wage to $10.10 an hour would lift 4.6 million people in poverty, as well as boosting the income of those in the tenth percentile by $1,700. Konczal states, That’s a significant increase in the quality of life for our worst off that doesn’t require the government to tax and spend a single additional dollar (Konczal). Basically, Konczal is saying hiking the minimum will not affect the government, and benefits those who are in poverty. If we increase the federal minimum wage, people will be able to have enough money to afford basic necessities, such as clothing, food, water, and shelter. A poll done in 2013 by Oxfam America claims that 66% of American workers who are earning less than $10 an hour report that they just meet or don’t have enough to meet their living expenses. The 74 percent of part time workers also barely make ends meet. Around half of these people (49 percent) say that they only have a little bit left over for extras for covering their basic expenses. In Oxfam’s view, The fact that the remaining half (51%) can scarcely get by despite putting in at least forty hours per week shows just how challenging it can be to live on less than $14 per hour (Oxfam). Oxfam insists that the minimum wage should be raised so full and part-time American workers have the ability to afford their basic needs. Finally, increasing the federal minimum wage will reduce the gender/race inequality. Beth Scott of The American Association of University Women states that, since we’re the majority of all employees being paid minimum wage. The average minimum wage worker is 33 years old, and most work full time. Yet even when women work full time that’s year round, no holidays, no vacation their minimum-wage income remains below the federal poverty line (Scott).

In a White House report done in 2014, increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and indexing it to inflation can be able to close around 5 percent of the gender pay gap. Millions of women will be able to get their pays worth. Meanwhile, minorities are also struggling because of pay inequality. According to Eileen Patten of the Pew Research Center, African American’s only make 75 percent as much as white people do in hourly earnings. In 2015, African American and Hispanic men earned an average hourly wage of $15 and $14 an hour, while white men made $21 per hour. Since there is has been no progress made for narrowing the wage gap with white men since 1980, African Americans earn the same 73 percent share of what white men make hourly in 1980 as they did in 2015. Hispanic men earned 69 percent of what white men earned in 2015 compared to 71 percent of 1980. Patten also states, College-educated black and Hispanic men earn roughly 80% the hourly wages of white college educated men ($25 and $26 vs. $32, respectively). White and Asian college-educated women also earn roughly 80 percent the hourly wages of white college-educated men ($25 and $27, respectively) (Patten). Even when minorities have the same education as white people, they still get paid less than them. Some people, like economic professors, may argue that raising the minimum wage would cause teenagers and young adults to be eliminated from the work force. The number of teenagers who work for minimum wage is at 24 percent. Casey Mulligan of the New York Times explains that teenage employment index value fell after the federal minimum wage was changed to $7.25 in 2009. By October 2009, the index fell to 92.1 percent, which is 8 percent less in only three months. Mulligan acknowledges that the minimum wage increase in 2009 had a significant role in the decline of teenage employment. According to Matthew Rousu of Forbes, those who are new to the job market are less likely to get paid higher salaries because of their inexperience and do not possess the skills. In 2013, those who were 16-19 years old had an unemployment rate of over 20 percent. Rousu goes on to explain that the impact of minimum wage for African American teenagers, stating that the unemployment rate was around 40 percent in 2013. However, I disagree with Gulligan’s and Rousu’s view that a minimum wage hike causes a decrease in employment for teenagers.

According to Results, A NELP report done in 2011 showed that teenage unemployment rises faster than adults during every recession whether or not the minimum wage goes up. The reason for this is because teenagers happen to be the last hired and the first ones to be fired when the economy starts to shrink, resulting in adults to compete with them for their jobs. Ally Jarmanning of Bostonomix, also claims the minimum wage is not the reason why teenage unemployment is so high. Jarmanning informs us that in 2017, the unemployment rate of those who are 16-19 is at its lowest since 1999 when the minimum wage in Boston was $5.25 now. The current minimum wage there now is $11 an hour, and teenagers still have a low unemployment rate. Since 2009, our federal minimum wage has stayed at $7.25 an hour. This is far too low any individual to survive and meet their basic needs. The minimum wage must be raised for the betterment of our country. As of 2016, there are over 700,000 American workers over 16 who get paid minimum wage. Raising the minimum will have an increase in employment, a decrease in poverty, allow people to afford basic necessities, and will reduce the race/gender inequality.

Works Cited

  1. Cooper, David. Raising the Federal Minimum Wage to $10.10 Would Lift Wages for Millions and Provide a Modest Economic Boost. Economic Policy Institute, 20 Dec. 2013, www.epi.org/publication/raising-federal-minimum-wage-to-1010/.
  2. Hart Research Associates. Hard Work, Hard Lives: America’s Low-Wage Workers. Oxfamamerica.org, 2013, www.oxfamamerica.org/static/media/files/hart-low-wage-workers-survey.pdf.
  3. Jarmanning, Ally. Despite Higher Minimum Wage, Teen Unemployment In Mass. Is At An 18-Year Low. WBUR, WBUR, 26 Dec. 2017, www.wbur.org/bostonomix/2017/12/26/teen-workers-unemployment-rate.
  4. Konczal, Mike. Economists Agree: Raising the Minimum Wage Reduces Poverty. The Washington Post, WP Company, 4 Jan. 2014, www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/01/04/economists-agree-raising-the-minimum-wage-reduces-poverty/?utm_term=.74f5e8abecad.
  5. Levitz, Eric. Study: Minimum Wage Hikes Are Working As Hoped. Daily Intelligencer, Intelligencer, 7 Sept. 2018, nymag.com/intelligencer/2018/09/study-minimum-wage-hikes-increase-pay-without-killing-jobs.html?gtm=top.
  6. Minimum Wage and Living Wage. RESULTS – The Power to End Poverty, 2013, www.results.org/issues/minimum_living_wage.
  7. Mulligan, Casey B. The Minimum Wage and Teenage Jobs. The New York Times, The New York Times, 18 Nov. 2009, economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/18/the-minimum-wage-and-teenage-jobs/.
  8. Patten, Eileen. Racial, Gender Wage Gaps Persist in U.S. despite Some Progress. Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 1 July 2016, www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/07/01/racial-gender-wage-gaps-persist-in-u-s-despite-some-progress/.
  9. Rousu, Matthew. Let’s Eliminate The Minimum Wage For Teenagers. Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 7 Apr. 2014, www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2014/04/07/lets-eliminate-the-minimum-wage-for-teenagers/#3bf285df7255.
  10. Scott, Beth. Raise the Minimum Wage, Shrink the Pay Gap. AAUW: Empowering Women Since 1881, 2014, www.aauw.org/2014/08/07/raise-the-wage/.
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