As the divide between the very rich and very poor keeps growing and the middle class is shrinking, the living wage movement is encouraging debate on a federal minimum wage increase and states raising the minimum wage.
Here are some topics for research papers.
The minimum wage issue
For your research paper you could write about the issue of raising the minimum wage. The federal minimum wage began during the Great Depression in 1938 at the rate of $0.25 an hour. Currently, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour and is contemplating raising it to $10.10. But for working people today, payment for work has declined in value (adjusted for inflation) from what it was decades ago, pay rates have gone down, and there are fewer quality jobs that offer adequate benefits.
States set their own wages
Some states follow the federal rate, but other states and individual cities are raising their own minimum wage above the federal rate. For example, the city of Seattle, Washington, raised its minimum wage to $15 making it the highest rate in the country. That experiment has actually resulted in less unemployment, not more, as some predicted.
Forbes writer Tim Worstall reported in “We Are Seeing The Effects Of Seattle’s $15 An Hour Minimum Wage,” March 16, 2015, “Between January and December of 2014, while Seatac’s [Seattle/Tacoma] business owners (and their customers) were absorbing the cost of paying minimum wage employees $15, unemployment decreased 17.46%, falling from 6.3% to 5.2%. It turns out that you CAN increase the minimum wage (even in large increments) and increase overall employment at the same time.”
Pro: For raising minimum wage
An interesting research paper topic is to write about both sides of the debate. On the Pro side, raising the minimum wage would raise workers above the poverty line and improve their living standards; improve worker morale causing less turnover, which is expensive for companies; increase consumer spending which will help the economy; and prevent full-time workers from needing food stamps and other public assistance, such as in the case with Walmart workers.
Raising minimum wage also improves public health by linking health benefits and income to better personal and family health. Minnesota State Health Commissioner Edward Ehlinger, MD, commented, “If you look at the conditions that impact health, income is right at the top of the list…Anything we can do to help enhance economic stability will have a huge public health benefit,” in “Raising Minimum Wage Good for Public Health, Not Just Wallets: Advocates Call for Federal Increase,” by Kim Krisberg in The Nation’s Health, March 2015. Higher income is attributed to many health issues, such as lower risk of childhood death, increased high school graduation rates, lower risk of premature death to such diseases as diabetes, and less homelessness.
Con: Against raising the minimum wage
Opponents of raising the minimum wage say higher wages will force some companies, especially small businesses, to hire fewer workers; companies will turn to automation; prices of goods will rise; and there are better ways of helping to reduce poverty, such as expanding the earned income tax credit. Also, advocates of a free market say that companies and markets should decide what a worker or job is worth paying, not federal government mandates.
Kevin A. Hassett, director of economic policy studies at the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute, explained “Why we shouldn’t raise the minimum wage,” March 10, 2013: “Because it will make it more expensive for businesses to hire young and low-skill workers at a time of crisis-level unemployment. Because it will not alleviate poverty. Because there are much better alternatives to help poor families, and because the minimum wage is a dishonest approach that hides the true cost of the policy.”
For more information, check out Questia’s library on the Living Wage Movement.
Tell us your opinion. Do you think raising the minimum wage will help or hinder?