How much the US minimum wage — and what it can get you — has changed since the year you were born

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Today, the federal minimum wage is $7.25, the same rate it’s been since it was last raised in 2009.
The first federal minimum wage law, enacted in 1938, set minimum hourly rates at $0.25 across the country.
Though the minimum wage has risen incrementally over the years, it hasn’t increased enough to account for inflation and the skyrocketing costs of living in many places across the US.
This disparity is clear when you take into account the value of each era’s federal minimum wage in today’s dollars, as well as the prices of common expenses, like a new home and a gallon of gas.
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While 22 states — and Washington D.C — raised their minimum wages in 2020, plenty of others have remained stagnant at the same federal minimum rate that took effect in 2009.

That means right now, 21 states still have a minimum wage of only $7.25. States like Georgia and Wyoming have state minimum wage set at $5.15 which is over two dollars less than the federal minimum, so the latter is enforced. 

Despite a September 2019 report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York that found the minimum wage hike in New York State had no immediate discernible effect on job loss and research published earlier this year suggests that raising the minimum wage by just $1 could lead to a drop in suicide rates, the federally mandated minimum wage hasn’t budged in over a decade.

By observing the changing hourly minimum rates over the years, juxtaposed alongside their relative value in today’s dollars, we can clearly see that incremental increases haven’t been remotely enough to ensure minimum wage workers’ ability to live in today’s economy.

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Here’s every minimum wage increase, including its value in today’s dollars, the cost of a new home in the given year, and the cost of a gallon of gas in the given year.

All adjusted values were determined using the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ CPI Inflation Calculator and are current as of the value of a dollar in June 2020.

SEE ALSO: These maps show how the minimum wage has become another crack in the country’s economic divide

DON’T MISS: There’s a lot of misinformation around the ‘harms’ of a $15 minimum wage. Here’s why it’s really a win for everyone, and how to spot a bogus claim.


The first federal minimum wage (signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt) was $0.25 an hour, effective October 24, 1938. In today’s dollars, that’s equal to $4.60 an hour.

In 1938, a new house cost about $3,900. A gallon of gas cost $0.20.

Source: US Department of Labor, Business Insider


The federal minimum wage was raised to $0.30 an hour, effective October 24, 1939. It remained the same until October 24, 1945. Thirty cents in 1940 was equal to $5.52 in today’s dollars.

In 1940, the median value of a single-family home in the US was $2,938 (equivalent to $54,100.54 in today’s dollars). That year, a gallon …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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