Giving West Virginia’s Workers a Raise: Increasing the State Minimum Wage
On April 14, 2013, the West Virginia House adopted HCR 107, expressing support for President Obama’s proposal to increase the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour and index it to inflation, in recognition of the decreasing value of the minimum wage and the idea that no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty. Read PDF of report.
Wages for West Virginia’s workers, and in particular low-wage workers, have eroded, not just in recent years, but over the past several decades. As fewer workers have enjoyed the fruits of a growing economy, problems like income inequality and poverty are growing problems in the state.
While there is no one quick fix, raising the minimum wage and adjusting it over time are key to reversing the long-term erosion of low-wage worker’s earnings and combating inequality and poverty.
This report calls for an increase the minimum wage by putting the current minimum wage in context to its historic value and other benchmarks. It also provides a demographic overview of who in West Virginia would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage. Finally it examines the evidence for the impact of the minimum wage on employment, and explores some of the reasons why the traditional arguments against raising the minimum wage are largely unsubstantiated.
- The real (inflation adjusted) value of the minimum wage has declined from its peak of $10.72 in 1968 to $7.25 today.
- Working full time on the minimum wage is not enough to keep a family of two out of poverty.
- Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 over the next three years would raise the wages of 191,000 workers in West Virginia, while raising it to $8.50 next year would benefit 122,145 workers.
- The majority of the beneficiaries of a minimum wage increase are adult, full-time workers who are supporting their families in moderate- to low-income households.
- Recent research shows that raising the minimum wage has little to no impact on employment and prices.