Six common myths about the minimum wage

Dec 18, 2017

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Key Findings

  1. The buying power of the federal minimum wage, and state minimum wages that are higher, have kept pace with inflation.
  2. Minimum wage workers are not worse off economically than they were in the past.  In 1968 minimum wage workers could buy more with their money, but there were three times as many workers earning minimum wage and they were paying much higher taxes than today’s minimum wage workers. 
  3. Increasing the minimum wage does not reduce poverty. Low wages are not the cause of poverty; it is lack of a job. Of working age adults living in poverty, nearly two-thirds do not work.  Of the close to one-third who do work, only 10 percent work full time.
  4. Very few people are “trying to survive” on minimum wage earnings. The majority of minimum wage earners are young and many are still in school.  Most minimum wage workers are not poor, are not working full-time, and do not rely on their wages as the sole source of income to support a family. 
  5. A family that relies solely on minimum wage earnings is rare. The vast majority of adult minimum wage earners, with or without children, are supplementing the income of a higher-earning spouse.  
  6. The value of the minimum wage has more than kept pace with gains in worker productivity in the jobs that typically pay minimum wage.  
  7. Economic studies show raising the minimum wage comes with significant harmful effects, making it harder for young people, immigrants and minorities, and workers with less on-the-job experience to find employment. 


Throughout the political movement pushing for a higher minimum wage, advocates have routinely told the public a series of claims that deserve further scrutiny.

This Policy Brief examines and debunks six of the most common myths supporters of increasing the minimum wage routinely cite to support their agenda.

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