During his State of the Union address, President Obama called for an increase in the federal minimum wage to $9 an hour, and to index future increases to the rate of inflation. If enacted, it would increase the wages of workers in every state except Washington, where the minimum wage is $9.19 an hour. It would lift millions of families above the poverty line by giving the minimum wage its highest purchasing power since 1981.
Regardless, Republicans in Congress oppose any increase to the federal minimum wage, but they might want to do some polling first, as data suggest an increase is incredibly popular among voters. As The Daily Change notes, polling conducted by Lake Research in February 2012 found that not only is support for Obama's proposed increase "stratospherically high," voters actually want to go further than the President suggests.
Their polling shows 73 percent of voters want to see the minimum wage raised to $10 an hour by 2014, including 50 percent of Republicans.
Republicans, like Sen. Marco Rubio (D-Fla.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) oppose increasing the minimum wage, claiming it will adversely effect jobs and the hiring power of small businesses. However, these claims have no basis in historical fact.
According to Think Progress, a study published in the Review of Economics and Statistics back in November 2010 found “no detectable employment losses from the kind of minimum wage increases we have seen in the United States.” Another study, published in 2011 “found no impact on hours worked or employment levels.”
In a March 2011 report, the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) found that raising the minimum wage has no "discernible impact" on employment. CEPR concluded that wage increases are more likely to result in more, rather than fewer, jobs:
The results for fast food, food services, retail, and low-wage establishments in San Francisco and Santa Fe support the view that a citywide minimum wages can raise the earnings of low-wage workers, without a discernible impact on their employment. Moreover, the lack of an employment response held for three full years after the implementation of the measures, allaying concerns that the shorter time periods examined in some of the earlier research on the minimum wage was not long enough to capture the true disemployment effects.
Our estimated employment responses generally cluster near zero, and are more likely to be positive than negative. Few of our point estimates are precise enough to rule out either positive or negative employment effects, but statistically significant positive employment responses outnumber statistically significant negative elasticities.
A major study of the minimum wage, done by economists David Card and Alan Krueger and published in the September 1994, supports the notion that raising the minimum wage actually increases employment. investigating the effects of New Jersey's 1992 minimum wage increase from $4.25 to $5.05, the pair revealed job creation was actually strengthened by the increase.
More than 15 million workers earn the national minimum wage, making about $15,080 a year. That's just below the federal poverty threshold of $15,130 for a family of two. Women represent nearly two-thirds of minimum-wage workers, while black and Hispanic workers represent a higher share of the minimum-wage workforce than whites, according to the Economic Policy Institute.