Jul 31 2014
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PHLR: Interactive Dataset Illustrates Historical Minimum Wage Trends

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The first federal minimum wage was set in 1938 by the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act. It was 25 cents per hour. Twenty-two subsequent increases now put the wage at $7.25—that equates to about $15,000 per year for a person who works a standard 40-hour workweek.

A new interactive dataset from Public Health Law Research (PHLR) enables researchers, policymakers, media and others to track these and other changes in both the federal and state minimum wages. PHLR is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Temple University dedicated to building the evidence base for laws that improve public health

“By tracking the changes to the rates and the law’s characteristics over time, we have laid the ground work for researchers and others to study the effects of minimum wage laws on many factors, such as housing, education, and health and well-being,” said Sarah Happy, JD, the PHLR program’s Director of Policy Surveillance, in a release.

Why does income impact health? A good paying job makes it easier for workers to live in healthier neighborhoods, provide quality education for their children, secure child care services and buy more nutritious food—all of which affect health.

Among the facts and trends revealed by the interactive dataset:

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  • Forty-five states and Washington, D.C., have minimum wage laws. The only states that do not are Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee.
  • In many states, the recent trend has been to increase the minimum wage above the federal rate and adjust it yearly for inflation.  Currently, Washington, D.C., has the highest state minimum wage rate at $9.50 an hour.
  • Arkansas, Georgia, Minnesota and Wyoming all have lower minimum wages than the federal wage, meaning their residents would receive the federal minimum, in most cases.
  • Alaska and Connecticut are the only two states that have had a minimum wage consistently higher than the federal minimum wage rate since 1980.

PHLR’s “Minimum Wage Laws Map joins more than 25 other maps on the PHLR LawAtlas.org website tracking laws across states and over time in more than ten public health issue areas, including chronic disease; injury and violence prevention; and environmental health.

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>>Read more on the impact of income and jobs on health.

Tags: Barriers to care: financial, Poverty, Workforce issues