Raising the Minimum Wage

by Anika Willis about a year ago in opinion

Why a Small Bump Would Help

Raising the Minimum Wage

Something people have been arguing about in recent years is the federal minimum wage, specifically if it should be raised and what it should be raised to. There are several sides to this argument. One is that it should not be raised at all because an increase of the minimum wage will lead to job loss and employers relying on machines. Another argument is that raising the federal minimum wage any amount, especially something as high as $15 an hour, will help improve people’s living conditions and move more money within our economy, this is argued by multiple people within the American Public Health Association.

My argument is somewhere in the middle. I argue that bumping the federal minimum wage up to $8.50 an hour will improve the public health of our country, as people have more money and therefore more capability to take care of themselves. Having a relatively small minimum wage bump will also improve our country’s economy, with benefits such as some job creation as there is more money moving around, and potentially higher product quality, as people, especially those working at minimum wage, are more motivated to create better quality products by their higher pay.

The first thing that raising the federal minimum wage will improve is the public’s health. In the Daily Trojan, a paper published at the University of Southern California, Jason Collins published an article on the effect of raising minimum wage on public health, specifically on the effect that it has on reducing teen pregnancy and rates of related issues, especially when coupled with support for organizations like Planned Parenthood. In his research, he concluded that having access to more money and resources caused lower pregnancy rates in girls ages 16 to 19, and helped reduce the amount of STI’s in women who had access to services provided in places such as Planned Parenthood. This shows us that having more money moving to those who have difficulty supporting themselves will help these people live better lives, because they don’t have to take care of babies while they are young, and they will be able to resist having STD’s, which can be immensely difficult to deal with, if left untreated.

An article published in the American Journal of Public Health quotes studies that say similar things (Leigh). Specifically, they talk about the effect of income on the health of mothers and, through them, their children. Two things they specifically say are that raising the minimum wage “could improve the mothers’ health,” and that increasing the minimum wage all the way up to $15 could reduce premature deaths from 2800 a year to 5500 over five years.

Although both sources specifically talk about new mothers and their children, they both can be applied to the general public. After all, it seems that if a mother is healthy, the family is going to be healthy. They don’t talk much in real numbers, but they both say that even a small bump in wages can help produce these results—so even bumping up the federal minimum wage $1.25 will help people who are trying to take care of themselves at or just above minimum wage. The little bit of extra income will help people defray the cost of taking care of both themselves and any children they might have.

A third article that helps show a benefit to increasing the minimum wage was written by Sandro Galea, from Boston University, in the American Journal of Public Health, called “Making Decisions That Narrow, or Widen, Health Gaps: A Public Health of Consequence, February 2019.” In it, it is discussed how in our economy we tend to pay low wages for jobs that we value highly, such as childcare related jobs and healthcare jobs. It says how paying low wages, especially for these difficult and important jobs, leads to a health gap—people paid on the low end have difficulty taking care of themselves. However, if minimum wages are increased, we could potentially have something called a ripple effect (Leigh), which means that employers will be motivated to give people working above the current minimum wage raises to keep up with their relative income. And as I have talked about, even a small wage raise, for most people, could help improve overall health, as we can help close a health gap between low-paid and high-paid workers, and help children as their parents, their mothers specifically, are able to be healthier.

Raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 will not only benefit people’s health, but will also help boost our economy. In an article written by David Olive, a reporter in Canada, for the August 2018 issue of the Toronto Star titled “The benefits to raising Ontario's minimum wage are tangible,” he discusses the effect that raising Ontario’s minimum wage has had, as the title suggests. According to the article, some of the benefits that raising the minimum wage had are an increase in hires as more people are willing to work now higher-paying jobs. It also led to an increase in earnings of businesses, as people started spending the money they are now earning more of.

Another article that brings this up is written by Tony Donnelly in the Scotsman, a journal based out of Scotland. It is titled “Making a living is easier, and people are happier, if firms pay a proper wage: Tony Donnelly extols the virtues of the Living Wage, and how it benefits workers and employers,” and it was published in November 2018. What he talks about is how companies who work to pay an actual living wage can attract a higher rate of skilled workers, and have those workers be more motivated to work hard and create quality products and services. Although I’m not arguing for the country to immediately jump up to a ‘living wage,’ the idea is basically the same—increasing the minimum wage will attract more workers to the workforce, and will help our country create better products.

Both articles show how raising wages improves the economies of the places they focus on. Raising the minimum wage can attract more people to jobs that need to be done, and decrease the levels of unemployment, as people are more willing to do jobs that didn’t pay nearly enough before. Even jobs that tend to be minimum wage jobs (stereotypically jobs like flipping burgers at McDonalds or doing cleaning jobs) will become more interesting to both teenagers and adults, as they know they’re going to be paid a fairer wage for the hard work those kinds of jobs often require.

Having this higher minimum wage will help. Going back to the ripple effect mentioned in Leigh’s paper, if we increase the minimum wage even a little, that $1.25, it will help get employers like health care companies to increase the pay of health care workers, many of whom thoroughly deserve that raise. Between these raises and the raises that minimum wage workers will be receiving automatically, the extra few hundred dollars each year each person will receive will help put that money back into the economy, creating a circle where companies are making more, allowing them to pay their employees their new, higher wages, who then have more money to spend.

One argument against raising the federal minimum wage is that it will lead to job loss, as employers stop being able to pay the new, higher minimum wage to their employees. There have been studies that say this—including one cited in David Olive’s article for the Toronto Star, which claimed that the minimum wage hike in Seattle led to significant job loss as business owners couldn’t keep up with the minimum wage. And while this argument does have some footing on the grounds that some businesses, especially small businesses, will have difficulty keeping up with minimum wage if it jumps too fast, people have a hard time recognizing that you can raise the minimum wage without more than doubling it, which is what many people seem to do—fight for a $15 minimum wage. According to the Labor Law Center, a website that focuses on helping people understand labor laws, 32 states already have minimum wages above the federal minimum wage, and though very few of them are as high as $15 an hour, many of them have raised their minimum wages to between $8.50 and $8.75. This shows us that many states have been able to recognize the value of raising the minimum wage just a little bit, and that perhaps the country should follow suit for all the states, including North Carolina, who have not raised their minimum wage since the country did.

The fact that raising the minimum wage kills jobs also is just not true. While it seems like it would be, studies in places like Seattle have shown that when the minimum wage is raised, especially if it’s done gradually, does not lead to significant job loss, and in fact could possibly lead to some job growth. (Elejalde-Ruiz).

In the grand scheme of things, minimum wage hikes are certainly not at the top of the list of importance. Many states are already increasing their minimum wages, in an attempt to keep up with the cost of living, and even in states where the minimum wage hasn’t been raised above the federal minimum wage, many companies and businesses pay even their lowest employees a bit above the minimum wage. I, however, think that it’s important to raise the minimum wage of the country to help the marginalized people working hard for not nearly enough pay to have better lives. In general, raising the federal minimum wage to $8.50 an hour will help do that, particularly for people stuck in places where they are working for minimum wage, as they will be able to better take care of themselves, and they money they earn will be able to improve our country’s economy.

Works Cited

Collins, J. (2017, Jan 29). Raising the minimum wage offers public health benefits. University Wire Retrieved from https://login.proxy189.nclive.org/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/1862687519?accountid=15152

Donnelly, T. (2018, Nov 06). Making a living is easier, and people are happier, if firms pay a proper wage. The Scotsman Retrieved from https://login.proxy189.nclive.org/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/2129819443?accountid=15152

Elejalde-Ruiz, A. (2018, Sep 09). Study: City's wage hike not a job killer corrected 09/11/2018]. Chicago Tribune Retrieved from https://login.proxy189.nclive.org/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/2100983639?accountid=15152

Galea, Sandro,M.D., DrP.H., and Vaughan, Roger D,DrP.H., M.S. "Making Decisions that Narrow, Or Widen, Health Gaps: A Public Health of Consequence, February 2019." American Journal of Public Health, vol. 109, no. 2, 2019, pp. 196-197. ProQuest, https://login.proxy189.nclive.org/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/2171119420?accountid=15152, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304893.

Leigh, J. P. (2016). Could raising the minimum wage improve the public's health? American Journal of Public Health, 106(8), 1355-1356. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2016.303288

Olive, D. (2018). David olive: The benefits to raising ontario's minimum wage are tangible, August 2018. The Toronto Star

Elejalde-Ruiz, A. (2018, Sep 09). Study: City's wage hike not a job killer corrected 09/11/2018]. Chicago Tribune Retrieved from https://login.proxy189.nclive.org/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/2100983639?accountid=15152

Anika Willis
Anika Willis
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Anika Willis

Hi everyone! I'm here, writing about things I enjoy and honing my writing as I do so. Enjoy my articles!

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