A livable wage is defined as the amount of money needed to cover the cost of food, healthcare, child care, housing and transportation expenses. According to statistics from CBS News, the federal minimum wage has been $7.25 an hour since 2009, but the cost of living has since increased by 20%. Furthermore, the current minimum wage is not considered a living wage, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study found.
The federal minimum wage perpetuates a cycle of poverty, as workers cannot invest in their futures on such a low wage, a cycle which specifically targets people of color, as reported by the Economic Policy Institute. An increase in the federal minimum wage is necessary, as it would benefit minimum wage workers, minorities and the U.S. economy as a whole.
As COVID-19 has made clear, the U.S. cannot function without minimum wage workers. According to the EPI, the nation relies on grocery store workers, delivery drivers, factory workers and other “frontline” workers, yet these workers are expected to work for less than $8.00 an hour and often do not receive benefits, such as healthcare or paid time off. Many of these workers must work multiple jobs simply to survive, as it is not possible to live on the current minimum wage.
The majority of those who stand to benefit from an increase in the minimum wage are women and people of color. Over 60% of minimum wage workers are women, found the Pew Research Center. Furthermore, it is estimated by the EPI that nearly a third of African-Americans and over a quarter of Latinos would get a raise if the federal minimum wage were increased, and a fourth of those that benefit would be Black and Latina women. Raising the minimum wage benefits those that have been systematically oppressed for years.
It is important to note that not just minimum wage workers benefit from an increase in the federal minimum wage. The U.S. has suffered economically since the pandemic began, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimating a 16% unemployment rate in May of 2020. By raising the minimum wage, more people in the U.S. would have disposable income to put back into the economy, the same tactic that was used to lift the country out of the Great Depression and the Great Recession. Ultimately, a raise of the minimum wage would benefit the country as a whole.
The Congressional Budget Office calculated that an increase in the federal minimum wage would lift an estimated five to six million workers out of poverty. Such an increase would also save the federal budget an estimated $65 billion a year in social programs because there would be less of a reliance on welfare, according to a study from the Institute for Research on Labor and Employment. A study from Clemson University also found that an increase in the minimum wage by just 50 cents reduced the chance of incarceration by 2.8%, thereby minimizing the prison population. An increase in the minimum wage would not only put money back into the economy, but it would also save billions in tax dollars.
Some have argued that most minimum wage jobs are worked by teenagers or students who do not need more money because they have familial support. However, in reality, of those that would benefit most from increasing minimum wage, more than half are between the ages of 25 and 54 and only 10% being teenage workers, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Most minimum wage workers are adults who work full time and they cannot live off the current federal minimum wage.
An increase of the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour would help the country recover from the economic blow caused by the pandemic and benefit the people who suffer the most economically in our country. Not only that, it would also save money in tax dollars and, most importantly, it would finally give minimum wage workers the pay they deserve.
Raising the minimum wage is a widely debated topic among politicians, and although some believe a raise in the minimum wage would help, the overall effect it would have on businesses makes it detrimental to the economy.
Small businesses have suffered the greatest losses during the pandemic, losing 52% of revenue in 2020, according to Forbes. These losses continued as small businesses were forced to invest in Personal Protective Equipment for the pandemic and work on renovations that cost approximately $21,553 per company. On top of all these expenses, if businesses had to raise employee wages to $15, they would suffer even more. In order for small businesses to comply with the wage raise, they will have to raise their prices to generate revenue, and many customers will opt for cheaper services if prices are hiked.
On a larger economic scale, bigger corporations are also weighing the consequences of raising the minimum wage. Companies like Amazon are focused on long-run costs and how they must adjust their technologies to make a profit in the future, according to the company. One way they are doing this is by making Amazon “Go-Shops” where customers can grab an item and check it out themselves. As a result, technology is replacing the work of employees, and an increase in expenses to pay their newly-raised wages would only encourage big businesses to cut jobs. Many people look at Amazon as an example of a big business that is raising the minimum wage, but they are doing it with the intent of minimizing the thousands of employees that work for them, so it is not an economic burden for them. The consequences of Amazon raising their wages will be the loss of jobs for people who need it most.
While the idea of raising the minimum wage is commendable, the main arguments for the raise are purely based on emotion and do not account for the economic ramifications that will actually hurt some of the people that it is intended to help. Losing customers will result in less income, and therefore, business will have to lay off employees. In turn, many low wage workers will become unemployed, rather than being helped.
Raising the minimum wage would cause burdens on both large and small businesses, as well as the employees who work for these companies. It is not worth it to increase the debt that so many businesses have amassed during the pandemic because it is the morally right thing to do. When businesses regain the revenue they are intended to have, the conversation surrounding raising the minimum wage can be had again.
Freshman Zeke Sears-Giardina
“Yes. I think it’s important that everyone is paid enough to afford their bills.”
Sophomore Lily Vincent
“Yes. I like the idea of people having more money to help their families.”
Junior Blake Brenner
“No. I’m for people getting more money to pay for things they need, but this doesn’t seem like the right way.”
Senior Shelby Brashear
“No. This would lead to smaller businesses laying off some people because they might not generate enough money to pay all of their staff.”
French teacher David Kozy
“Yes. I am for a raise in the minimum wage, but I think that a $15 minimum wage should be reserved for individuals in a certain age bracket. Maybe not for 16 year olds on the first job, but individuals who are independent.”