(Opinion) Raising the Minimum Wage: Why It Is Important

Keagan McGuire, Reporter

A person should be able to survive and live off of working a minimum wage job. However, with the combination of a stagnant federal minimum wage and  constant rising prices this has become almost  impossible. 

 

The last time the federal minimum wage was increased was in 2009 in which it was raised to $7.25 an hour (NCSL). However, the cost of living has gone up 20 percent since then (CBS News). ​​The $7.25 per hour wage is nowhere near the living wage (defined as the minimum amount necessary to meet a worker’s basic needs), even in the cheapest states like South Dakota where the living wage is $11.25 (Money Talks News). 

 

In other more expensive states, the living wage can be as high as $20, nearly three times the current federal minimum wage (Money Talks News). Some states have raised the state wage, however, even in a liberal state like California the minimum wage is still $15, over three dollars less than the living wage (Money Talks News). 

 

All of this data is also for a singular adult, not including any dependents or added costs from medical issues. One counter argument is that these jobs should only be for teenagers so the higher minimum wage wouldn’t be necessary, however, then society isn’t able to function between the hours of 8am-3pm. 

 

Teenagers are also not capable of working the necessary hours because of child labor laws, and loading that amount of work onto a child’s plate isn’t healthy for them or the people around them. The high stress rates for teens are a big contributor to the rising suicide rates, and there are a huge amount of other dangerous side effects. 47% of essential workers are paid less than $15 per hour (NCSL), meaning that it is necessary for adults to work minimum wage jobs in order to operate on even a basic level. Raising the minimum wage would cause a huge decrease in poverty as well as an increase in economic security (epi.org), which is especially important for children. 

 

This increase would also allow for advances in racial and gender equality as both are disportionately affected by minimum wage, with one in three black workers earning minimum wage (epi.org). This raise would increase the wages of more than 32 million workers and eliminate poverty wages as well (epi.org). A first world country like the United States should be able to lift its citizens out of poverty and it is preposterous to prevent it from doing so, particularly considering it is very popular among Americans from both sides of politics (NCSL). Another argument against minimum wage is that it would cause inflation as well as economic damage, however, this is not the case. In fact, it is actually the latter. The economy can afford a much higher minimum wage and standard of living, with the jump in economic growth(epi.org). 

 

It would also save taxpayer money and cause a rise in productivity and cause job growth (NCSL). According to ProCon.org, “Increasing the minimum wage would have a ripple effect, raising the incomes of people who make slightly above minimum wage… increase worker productivity and reduce employee turnover.” This increase would even decrease premature deaths and lead to an overall healthier population (procon.org). The ripple effect from increasing minimum wage can even reduce high school dropout and crime rates (procon.org). 

 

Overall, the increase in minimum wage is undoubtedly important not only for a livable wage, but for children and the economy as a whole. 

 

  • Draeger, Saige. “Increasing the Minimum Wage.” Increasing the Minimum Wage, NCSL, 7 May 2021, https://www.ncsl.org/research/labor-and-employment/increasing-the-minimum-wage.aspx. 
  • Aimee, Aimee. “It’s Been a Record 11 Years since the Last Increase in U.S. Minimum Wage.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 24 July 2020, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/minimum-wage-no-increases-11-years/. 
  • Money Talks News, https://www.moneytalksnews.com/. 
  • Shierholz, Heidi. “EPI Testimony on Increasing the Minimum Wage to $15 per Hour.” Economic Policy Institute, Economic Policy Institute, 24 Feb. 2021, https://www.epi.org/publication/epi-testimony-on-increasing-the-minimum-wage-to-15-per-hour/.