The Federal Minimum Wage Hardly Matters Anymore

Charts showing the history of the minimum wage usually adjust for inflation, which always begs the question of which inflation measure is “most accurate.” But the best way to see the trend of the minimum wage is to simply compare each year’s level to the median family income in the same year. Here it is:

This view has less of the familiar sawtooth pattern, and shows that the federal minimum didn’t really peak in the 60s and then decline. In reality, it’s been slowly declining ever since we started collecting income statistics in the 50s. Back then, a full year of minimum-wage work earned you about 40 percent of the median. Today that’s down to 20 percent, and on current trends the minimum wage will decline to its lowest point in history by next year.

For all practical purposes, Republicans have finally reached a long-cherished goal: to eliminate the federal minimum wage. Today, thanks to their unwillingness to support an increase, well under one percent of workers earn the federal minimum wage, which makes it effectively meaningless.

Thanks, GOP! I’m sure your wealthy donors appreciate your flat refusal to entertain even a modest bit of help for the working poor and the working class, instead spending all your energies on tax cuts for corporations and the rich.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

Thank you!

We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.