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March 5 2019

Two Truths and a Lie: Federal Minimum Wage

by Patrice Lee Onwuka

Everyone loves a fun party game/icebreaker. Test your knowledge of the federal minimum wage. Can you tell which of the following statements is NOT true?

  1. Most minimum-wage earners are poor, single moms.

  2. Raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour would cost 7 million US jobs.

  3. Most minimum-wage workers earn pay raises after one year.

Let’s take each statement one at a time.

  1. LIE! Over half of minimum-wage workers are young people between the ages of 16 and 24 and nearly two out of three of them are working part-time. Of the these younger workers, 62 percent are enrolled in school. Less than a quarter of all minimum-wage workers live at or below poverty. The average family income for these workers is about $53,000 per year, but workers aged 16-24 come from families with an average annual income of nearly $66,000. So while lawmakers leverage the story of a poor, single mom of two kids working fulltime to feed her family as the rationale to raise the federal minimum wage, the more accurate picture is teenager, who is not the primary breadwinner of her home, working an after-school job to gain experience.

  2. TRUE! Economists estimate that raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour would cost the economy 7 million full-time jobs by 2021. Most literature on the subject of minimum wage increases agree that they reduce employment. Nearly doubling the federal minimum wage from its current level of $7.25 would make it more expensive for companies to hire and retain their lowest-skilled workers. Employers could forgo hiring new workers and lay off current staff, but that’s not all. They may also reduce staff hours and cut benefits well as raise prices on the goods and services they provide to consumers. All of this makes it more difficult for inexperienced workers to build skills and gain valuable experience.

  3. TRUE! Minimum wage jobs are not lifelong careers but tend to be entry-level positions. Two-thirds (66 percent) of minimum wage workers earn a raise within their first 12 months on the job allowing them to rise above the minimum wage. Thus, raising the minimum wage is unnecessary as most of these workers move up the pay scale on their own.





Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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