Graphic made by Evan Brooks
Minimum wage, put simply, is the lowest rate someone can be paid per hour of work. This rate on the federal level is $7.25 an hour. The minimum wage can vary state to state, as some states have their own laws, raising the rate to as high as $14 an hour. Although states can create their own minimum wage laws, some default to the federal rate instead, including Pennsylvania.
There are many ideas of what minimum wage should be, but those ideas often find themselves embedded in either side of the political spectrum. In my eyes, minimum wage should be looked at in an objective light, debated and tested in the economic arena, to then be rolled out in its most useful form.
The largest debated idea is whether it should be raised or not and what the outcome will be if done. On the one hand, it is said that if the minimum wage is raised, it will force businesses to lay off employees because they will need to offset the increased labor cost. On the other hand, it is said that if raised, it will lift millions out of poverty. The reality is that both are possibilities.
I encourage the reader to check out the following website from the Congressional Budget Office. It shows some of the possibilities of what certain wage increases would do in terms to poverty rates, employment and more. https://www.cbo.gov/publication/55681#:~:text=The%20federal%20minimum%20wage%20of,their%20family%20income%20would%20fall.
Overall, it seems that all is rather speculative when it comes to what would happen if the minimum wage is increased. This is because the last time it was increased was in 2009: 2009 was the third straight year minimum wage was raised, starting in 2007. Before 2007, it was raised in 1997. I bring these dates up because the speculation of what might happen can be supplemented with what actually happened when it was previously raised.
Since 29 out of 50 states, as well as Washington D.C., already have a higher minimum wage set; raising it would most likely not impact most, if not all, 29 states, depending on the increase. As for the other 21 states, minimum wage only really impacts low-wage workers. Most occupations and careers offer salaries higher than the minimum wage, meaning most companies would be fine. Small businesses would feel the impact the most.
Small businesses aren’t able to cover the large wages that come with hiring a Ph.D., leading them to try to pay their employees the lowest wage possible. Usually, those that are getting paid the lowest wage are those that are younger, like teens or those with less education, those with a high school diploma or less.
Those with less education have less opportunities when it comes to landing a high-paying job, leaving them more likely to land on or below the poverty line. An argument that I find may work is making the minimum wage a living wage. Sure, someone that works at a fast food restaurant or a janitor shouldn’t get paid the same as a teacher or a job that requires higher skill sets, but that’s not the argument. The argument is for a wage to eliminate poverty as much as possible and offer more opportunities so that the American Dream is a little more attainable.
By raising the minimum wage to a living one, unemployment will be raised in the short term but will ultimately level out and decline in the long term. The population on or below the poverty line will decrease steadily over time, meaning more money in the pockets of Americans, meaning consumer spending will rise and our economy will grow.
Evan Brooks is a third-year Business Management major with minors in Economics and Civic and Professional Leadership EB0916132@wcupa.edu