A report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) released last week finds that since the $7.25 an hour wage was established in 2009, its real value has declined 27 percent, bringing the value of the federal minimum wage to its lowest point in 66 years.
Further, the value of the minimum wage is 40 percent lower when compared to its highest historical value of about $12.12 in 1968 after adjustment for inflation.
The last time that the federal minimum wage was lower than its current value was in 1956, when it was worth $7.19 in 2022 dollars.
The MIT living wage calculator has found that, for instance, a single mother with two children making the federal minimum wage would need to work 235 hours a week – more hours than exist in a week – in order to make a livable wage.
Economists say that, if the minimum wage were raised in proportion to the productivity gains over the decades, the federal minimum wage would be $31.67 an hour. If it were raised alongside Wall Street executive bonuses since 1985, it would be $44.12.
Although fast food and other service workers have been waging a campaign to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, even that number – over twice the federal minimum wage – is now only worth the equivalent of $11.65 in 2012 dollars, which is the year that Fight for $15 began.