The erosion of the federal minimum wage has increased poverty especially for black and Hispanic families

Source: Ben Zipperer, Economic Policy Institute, Economic Snapshot, June 13, 2018

Higher wages were a key plank of the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign to reduce poverty. But over the last five decades the real (inflation-adjusted) value of the minimum wage—a key tool in the fight against poverty—has steadily eroded. Minimum wage increases have been too infrequent to keep up with inflation, let alone raise the real value of the minimum wage above where it was in 1968. While a full-time minimum wage worker in 1968 would have earned $20,600 a year (in 2017’s dollars), a worker paid the federal minimum wage in 2017 could only earn $15,080 working full time. Figure A compares these full-time minimum wage incomes to poverty thresholds for different family sizes and shows that, today, a single parent of one child would be consigned to poverty if that parent earned the federal minimum wage.