Has boosting the U.S. minimum wage from $4.25 per hour in 1994 to today's $7.25 per hour helped or hurt the U.S. economy?
To answer this question, we'll be tapping the U.S. Census Bureau's data on the incomes earned by 15 to 24 year old Americans in 1994 and 2011 (which until this September represents the most recent year for which this data is available). Specifically, we'll be considering the size of the Age 15-24 population, the number of 15-24 year olds with incomes and, of course, the federal minimum wage that applied in each of those years.
Because we're spanning so much time, we'll also need to account for the effects of inflation on the effective level of the U.S. minimum wage. Our first chart, which we created for a previous post on the topic, shows the original and inflation-adjusted levels of the U.S. federal minimum wage for both 1994 and 2011 in terms of constant 2011 U.S. dollars:
Our next chart illustrates the change in the number of 15 to 24 year olds who were either counted as having incomes, or having no income, in both 1994 and 2011:
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