Minimum Wage, Minimum Life

Minimum wage should be raised due to high living cost


Infographic by Heran Essayas & Dasha Makarishcheva

Heran Essayas

Every year, the cost of living goes up. College education is getting more expensive. Buying a house is getting more expensive. Despite these rising costs, the national minimum wage remains constant.
Adults who work jobs with a lower pay are not able to save much money due to the high cost of living, potentially forcing them to live a lifestyle that is not adequate for their personal needs. The nation must increase the minimum wage to ease the lives of lower-paid workers.
The national minimum wage is set at $7.25 per hour, which was changed from $6.55 per hour in 2009. Since this raise, it has lost 9.6% of its purchasing power due to inflation.
“Since inflation makes a dollar worth less, if a minimum remains constant, workers are actually getting paid less in real dollars. Their money buys less than it did in previous years because of inflation’s impact on the rise of prices,” AP Economics teacher Joseph Dwyer said.
When accounting for inflation, minimum wage had the highest purchasing power in 1968. Despite regular increases since then, workers are not able to sustain themselves with a minimum wage paycheck.
In order to support their families, lower-paid workers often have multiple jobs and encourage their children to work as well. By raising the minimum wage, families will be able to pay their bills more easily without being consumed by tireless hours of work.
“I worked as a McDonald’s cashier for one year, and I worked around 14 to 17 hours a week,” junior Malcolm Rodgers said. “Most of my coworkers were middle-aged or older, and I was one of the youngest there. Many of them worked other jobs or longer hours than I did.”
Currently, 29 states have a state minimum wage that is higher than the national, and D.C. has the highest at $14 per hour, demonstrating that it isn’t feasible to afford living while earning only $7.25 per hour.
In McLean, the median cost of a house is $955,800, compared to the U.S. average of $226,800. The cost of living is determined mainly by the price of housing, meaning that McLean has a significantly higher cost of living than other cities across the U.S. Consequently, many minimum wage workers cannot afford property in McLean or other expensive cities.
Junior Clare Brady, a current employee at McLean Hardware, noted that the already expensive price of the building would make raising the minimum wage detrimental to this local business.
“People complain about the high prices, so they cannot charge more than they already do, meaning they probably [would] not be able to hire as many employees,” Brady said.
Actually, raising the minimum wage has not had a negative impact on the national employment rate.
“The biggest factor to consider is how large an increase in wage it would be,” Dwyer said. “Classical economists argue that raising the wage will cause firms to demand less labor, but in case studies in the real world, this has not always been the case since firms need labor in order to produce their products.”
Raising the minimum wage benefits the national economy as well. Workers are able to earn money, and therefore they are able to spend more money.
Though raising the minimum wage may potentially affect small businesses, it is more beneficial to the population and will improve the daily lives of hundreds of thousands of U.S. residents.
According to a 2014 Congressional Budget Office report, increasing the national minimum wage to $10.10 would allow for 900,000 people to no longer be in poverty. With 38.1 million people in poverty in the U.S., this change would be extremely beneficial to those who earn a wage near the national minimum.
“It would allow unskilled workers to have a wage where they could provide for themselves,” Dwyer said.
A small raise would change so many Americans’ lives for the better. The government needs to prioritize the lives of citizens over economic gain.