New minimum wage increases need to reflect the economic diversity of the country

California is on the verge of passing a $15 minimum wage law; New York may be next. Following years of inaction at the federal level—the last minimum wage increase out of Washington came in 2009—many cities and states have been setting minimum wage policy on their own as economic inequity in the United States reaches a social breaking point. That emerging patchwork of minimum wage levels may not be an undesirable outcome.

Certainly it is necessary for the federal government to establish a rate below which no worker should fall. Even better would be a Congressional bargain linking the minimum wage permanently to objective economic indicators and establishing automatic cost-of-living adjustments. But with the cost of living ranging widely around the nation and within states, varied minimums could have a greater impact on poverty reduction. Oregon recently voted to move toward the $15 minimum over the next six years. The state will step up from its current $9.25 an hour to $14.75 by 2022 in the city of Portland, but there will be a slightly lower rate for small towns ($13.50) and the most rural areas ($12.50), where a large hike could discourage job creation.

Advertisement

The new wage levels should move thousands of Oregonians out of a working-poverty trap. The results in Oregon should be assessed and replicated if the tiered approach proves effective in poverty reduction without job loss. Many people who work for minimum wage are supporting themselves and their families on it; they deserve a proactive wage policy that aids them in that effort.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
William Rydberg
1 year 10 months ago
Right on California! What took you so long?
Richard Hug
1 year 10 months ago
1. Is there any evidence at all that this will lift folks out of poverty? I think not. It might make the cost of hamburgers go from $3.00 to $5.00....so it is really not helping since the higher minimum wage is a major factor in inflation. 2. The solution for poverty in most cases is education. This is true in the US (California and New York), as well as in solving our southern border "crisis". In the US our public education in poor areas remains poor, not breaking the cycle. 3. Christo Rey, and programs like that, are proven methods of fighting poverty. 4. Why not have the State of California (or the Feds), pay folks the equivalent of $15.00. Keep the minimum wage where it is...and use the balance to create a fund that a person can use for further education and job training. 5. There are exceptions, and we as a Church, as well as a government, need to make sure that these exceptions do not fall between the cracks. No one should go to bed hungry!

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Asia Bibi's husband and her daughter Eisham arrive in the Vatican prior to a private meeting with Pope Francis. (Credit: Vatican News)
The pope said Rebecca Bitrus and Asia Bibi are models for a society that today has ever more fear of suffering.
Gerard O’ConnellFebruary 24, 2018
(Nick Ansell/PA via AP, archive)
Recent allegations about one of the United Kingdom’s biggest and best-known charities has driven increased demands from some quarters that overseas aid be reduced, if not abolished completely.
David StewartFebruary 23, 2018
Students who walked out of classes from Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland protest against gun violence in front of the White House on Feb. 21 in Washington. (CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)
The desire for stronger gun control may not translate into more caution with gun storage among owners of firearms.
Kevin ClarkeFebruary 23, 2018
Of the estimated 14.5 million school-age Catholic children in the U.S., about or 55 percent are Latino. Yet 4 percent of school-age Latino Catholic children are enrolled in Catholic schools.
Maria Luisa TorresFebruary 23, 2018