Well over 100 prominent economists have signed an open letter to President Trump and Congress supporting gradually increasing the minimum wage to $15 by 2024, and then indexing it to median wages to protect against future erosion. They also support gradually phasing out the outdated subminimum wage for tipped workers, which has been frozen at $2.13 since 1991. Signatories include two Nobel Prize winning economists and two John Bates Clark Medal winners.
“The weight of the extensive evidence in the economics literature finds that minimum wage increases have been an extremely effective way to lift the pay for low-wage workers, without the negative consequences that some detractors have predicted,” said EPI Policy Director Heidi Shierholz. “The benefits of gradually phasing in a $15 minimum wage by 2024 would be far-reaching, lifting pay for tens of millions of workers, and helping reverse decades of growing pay inequality.”
The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour has not been updated since 2007, and is worth about 29 percent less per hour than the minimum wage 50 years ago (after adjusting for inflation)—despite productivity nearly doubling since the late 1960s. Raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2024 would directly lift the wages of 28.1 million workers, and another 11.6 million workers whose wages are just above the new minimum would likely see a wage increase through “spillover” effects, as employers adjust their internal wage scales. The vast majority of people who would benefit are adults—disproportionately women—in working families, who work at least 20 hours a week and depend on their earnings to make ends meet. A $15 minimum wage by 2024 would result in $121 billion in higher wages, which would also benefit workers’ families and their communities.
Modest and infrequent minimum wage increases are directly responsible for growing inequality between the bottom and the middle class; this minimum wage increase would provide a significant and much needed boost to the earnings of low-wage workers. And, because it would be indexed to growth in median wages, it would ensure that the wage floor keeps up with the growth of middle-wage workers’ pay going forward.