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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.

2 Comments


Carlie Youngman
Carlie Youngman
Nov 10, 2021

There is always political talk about raising minimum wage and why it is or is not important. This lesson would help students to develop their own opinions on that issue.

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Dylan Grimes
Dylan Grimes
Nov 10, 2021

Too many students do not know about inflation, and it so important to teach.

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