Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Has the Minimum Wage Kept Pace with Inflation?

The first federal minimum wage was set in 1938 at $0.25 per hour. As of this past July, it went up to $5.85. It will go up to $6.55 next July and $7.25 in July of 2009. To see the history of changes in the minimum wage CLICK HERE. The numbers below show by what percentage the wage increased each time it was raised, followed by the change in the CPI in that year relative to 1938. For example, the increase in 1938 raised the minimum wage 20% while prices actually fell 1.42%. The 1967 increase raised the minimum wage 12% while prices in that time (since 1963, the time of the previous increase) went up 9.15%. There have been times when the increase in the minimum wage was less than the increase in prices. In 1990, the minimum wage increase was 13.43% over the 1981 level while prices since 1981 were up 43.78%. Since 1938, the minimum wage has increased 2240% while the Consumer Price Index is up 1371%. To make a long story short, this amounts to an increase in the minimum wage of 63%, adjusted for inflation.

1939 ** 20.00% ** -1.42%
1945 ** 33.33% ** 29.50%
1950 ** 87.50% ** 33.89%
1956 ** 33.33% ** 12.86%
1961 ** 15.00% ** 9.93%
1963 ** 8.70% ** 2.34%
1967 ** 12.00% ** 9.15%
1968 ** 14.29% ** 4.19%
1974 ** 25.00% ** 41.67%
1975 ** 5.00% ** 9.13%
1976 ** 9.52% ** 5.76%
1978 ** 15.22% ** 14.59%
1979 ** 9.43% ** 11.35%
1980 ** 6.90% ** 13.50%
1981 ** 8.06% ** 10.32%
1990 ** 13.43% ** 43.78%
1991 ** 11.84% ** 4.21%
1996 ** 11.76% ** 15.20%
1997 ** 8.42% ** 2.29%
2007 ** 13.59% ** 29.22%

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