Minimum Wage - $15 per hour
By: Duncan McArthur
In 2017 the United States’ total wealth was $100 trillion dollars. During the same year, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that there were 1.8 million minimum wage workers. This year has had strong job growth with 215,000 jobs being created monthly and productivity is at an all-time high and is 77 percent higher than in 1973.
Yet, nowhere is it possible for a minimum wage worker to live in a two bedroom apartment working 40 hours or less a week. Living in a single-bedroom apartment working a minimum wage job for the same amount of time is only possible in 12 counties.
One contributing factor is that the federal minimum wage has not kept up with inflation. In 1968 the minimum wage was $1.60 which adjusted for inflation is worth $11.64. Additionally, the minimum wage would be $21.72 today if it kept up with worker productivity.
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (I) has written multiple bills in the past which would raise the federal minimum wage to $15. Raising the minimum wage is popular with most Wright State students with 73 percent supporting the idea. 27 percent of students still have reservations about increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
On a self-conducted survey of 30 Wright State students showed that around 10% of respondents claimed they did not support making the minimum wage $15 but supported raising the minimum wage to 10-12 dollars instead. Wright State Sophomore and nursing major Lexi Fruend said she supported a 10 dollar increase but an increase beyond that would be too drastic.
Senator Sander’s bill would only apply to 21 states with a minimum wage equal to or lower than the federal minimum wage. This is because states can set their own minimum wage if it is higher than the federal minimum wage. In a self-conducted survey of 30 Wright State students, only six were able to correctly identify Ohio’s current minimum wage which was bumped to $8.30 in 2018. Living in a two-bedroom apartment in Ohio requires making at least $15 per hour. Additionally, an Ohioan Family with one child needs to earn at least $46,000 a year in order to not be impoverished.
Living on minimum wage is even more difficult for 60 percent of minimum wage workers whose jobs frequently involve tipping. In Ohio, the current tipped minimum wage was $4.15. Wright State student Jordin Durham explains why he believes that the minimum wage should be increased.
“Increasing the minimum wage I’m all for considering I drive for dominos my minimum wage drops to five dollars an hour. It’s so that the tips bring me to back up to minimum wage,” Durham said before continuing, “A huge pro would be for a company like Dominos. It would encourage people to become drivers because as it stands we have too many insiders and not enough people who want to be morning drivers. Just that increase would make it a bit better,” said Durham.
Fruend also argued that the tipped minimum wage should also be increased. “I have a friend who’s a waitress and the nights she gets tipped are significantly better than when she does not get paid. She’s also going to school and relies on tips to help pay her tuition so when she’s not tipped well it puts her behind or more in debt for school,” Freund said.
One possible complication with raising the minimum wage is how it would affect the cost of living. The purchasing power or what someone can purchase with a certain amount of money varies drastically in each state. In West Virginia, $100 dollar’s purchasing power is $115 but only $84.18 in Hawaii.
The different cost of living in each state does not change the fact that being poor is expensive. The poor and those on minimum wage are less likely to have access to healthy foods driving up healthcare costs, short-term loans frequently have much higher interest rates, and being unable to address minor problems early on like with healthcare ballooning into a much larger problem which is the biggest cause of bankruptcy in the United States.
Economic growth is not an effective indicator of the general public’s well being. The top one percent took more than 75 percent of economic gains during 2009 and 2013 while Bostonian African Americans have a median worth of eight dollars. There is a reason why the minimum wage has not been a front and center issue for politicians.
“Minimum wage people generally do not vote so politicians don’t pay a political price for it. If you’re working a minimum wage job and you’ve got three jobs to do it’s difficult to get out and vote. So there is no political price,” Wright State Professor Liam Anderson said.
According to the U.S. Census, millennials are making $2,000 less than young minimum wage workers from the 1980’s. However, this is changing with people like Senator Sanders channeling millennial frustration about their economic situation.
Minimum Wage workers are most likely to be…
Race Respondents Outside answer
Native American 0
Asian/Pacific Islander 0
The majority of minimum wage workers are white making up 76.3 percent, while Latinos and Blacks were 17.3, and 15.4 percent. Data from those sources regarding Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and those who are more than one race were not present. In this survey none of the people who responded selected Native American or Asian American/Pacific Islander.
Right out of High School 93% 23.1 percent have no high school diploma while 9% have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
College Educated 7%
Slightly above 60 percent of minimum wage workers are women.
What percentage of minimum wage workers are under 20 years old?
25 or less 33% 24 percent of minimum wage workers are 16 to 19 years old.
26 to 50 33%
51 to 75 23%
76 or more 10%
What would the minimum wage be if it kept its peak value during the 1960’s?
$7.25 or less 43% In today’s dollars, the 1968 minimum wage would be worth about $11.62.
$8 - 13 10%
$14 - $17 20%
$18 - $22 10%
What would the minimum wage be if it kept up worker productivity since the 1960’s?
$7.25 or less 13% If the minimum wage’s value kept up with worker productivity it would be $19.33 according to businessinsider.
$8 - 13 37%
$14 - $17 33%
$18 - $22 17%
What is the state minimum wage?
Correct 20% The current Ohio minimum wage is $8.30.
Are you in favor of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour?
30 wright state students participated in this questionnaire.
What words do you associate with minimum wage workers?
Uneducated 19% 23.1 percent have no high school diploma while 9% have a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Fast/Food Catering Service Industry 15% People working within the culinary industry comprise approximately 47 percent of minimum wage workers.
Temporary/Part Time 6%
Psychologically Unwell 4%
The answers for this sample were obtained by asking people three words they associated with minimum wage workers. List of words above are categories based on the 84 answers that were provided.