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  • Jonathan Osler

Our Declining Minimum Wage

This chart comes from the Economic Policy Institute.

A chart from the Economic Policy Institute comparing the federal minimum wage in 2021 to what is was in 1968

In the Classroom

Potential questions for students to explore:

  • What does "adjusted for inflation" mean? How might the graph look different if it wasn't adjusting for inflation?

  • Was the federal minimum wage actually $11.12 in 1968? Justify/explain your answer.

  • How many hours/year does this graph assume the average person works?

  • What types of jobs are most commonly paid at the minimum wage?

  • In which year - 2021 or 1968 - would it likely be harder for a minimum wage earner to care for their family? Justify your answer.

  • Use the graph to make a mathematically sound argument for why the federal minimum wage should be increased.

Extension ideas:

  • Explore the racial and gender composition of minimum wage earners in the U.S.

  • Compare decline in value of minimum wage to increase in CEO compensation

  • Use the data to make predictions about the relative value of minimum wage in 10 years

  • Explore how to convert 1938 dollars into 2021 dollars

How Would You Use This?

How would you use this graph in your classroom? Comment below.

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