Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Relative Value of the Minimum Wage Over Time (Has Fallen Dramatically)

This probably doesn't come as a surprise to many readers of this blog, but it's good to keep in mind the extent to which the relative value of the minimum wage has fallen over time - and Remapping Debate has done that with a rather cool interactive graph. The graph shows the gap (in constant 2011 dollars) between the annual income of someone working full-time at minimum wage and the federal poverty line for a family of four at various points in the past 50 years.

For example, in 1968, a full-time minimum wage worker made about 94% of the federal poverty line for a family of four:


By 2011, that percentage had decreased to 66% (though this is still a little better than the low point of 58% in 2007):


So, even though the federal minimum wage has gone up nominally over time, life for low-wage workers in America has gotten harder, not easier.

And in addition to the eroding power of minimum wage level pay, I'll also add that living at the poverty line is not exactly glamorous - I can't imagine living in a family of four trying to survive on $22,811 in the greater DC area. Talk about serious misery.

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