The History of The Minimum Wage

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The past couple of years have been a financial nightmare for millions of Americans who have lost their jobs or homes (or both) and are struggling under mounting debt. But the reality is that for a segment of the population — those who work for minimum wage — even the boom years that preceded the crash have probably not been much easier. Today, working for minimum wage pretty much means living at or barely above the poverty line. If you live in Georgia or Wyoming, for example, and you make $5.15 an hour, you have the dubious honor of receiving the lowest minimum wage rate in the country. Assuming you work 40-hour weeks and are paid for 52 weeks a year (so you either don’t take any vacation and sick days or you have those paid by your employer), you’d be living on $206 a week, barely above $10,712 a year — before payroll tax withholding. Even at the highest minimum wage rate in the country, found in Washington at $8.55 an hour, you’d be earning $17,784 a year. Those wages are reality for nearly 3.6 million workers throughout the country.

So who works for the minimum wage in America? We look at some statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, including an age and gender breakdown, as well as a historical perspective on minimum wages.

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