Minimum Wage Furthering Economic Inequality in the United States

By: Olivia Italiano
Blog Category: Minimum Wage & the Economy

Economic inequality in the United States has risen radically in recent decades. A substantial portion of this inequality is the result of the depletion of minimum wage standards to the point where minimum wage workers frequently fall well below the federal poverty line.[1]  Despite working full-time hours, minimum wage is not livable for the vast majority of workers, many of whom are often reduced to food stamps because they simply cannot afford the cost of living and supporting their families on their minimum wage salaries.[2]  Racial wealth disparities add another dimension to the plight of the poverty stricken, as entire communities, overwhelmingly populated by minorities, have been financially drained to the point of families losing their homes and being forced onto the streets.[3]

As many scholars have noted, it is both ironic and disheartening that the wealthiest nation in the world allows a dramatic portion of its population to live in abject poverty.[4]  In recent years, the “living wage movement” has attempted, principally through local legislation, to rectify the current plight of minimum wage workers by requiring that businesses with public contracts pay their workers adequate livable wages to support their families.[5]  This movement requires both the federal minimum wage as well as state minimum wages be increased above the poverty line.[6]  Moving forward, our nation must commit itself to providing justice for minimum-wage workers and achieving equality by raising minimum wage across the country.

The opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Widener Journal of Law, Economics & Race.

[1] Darin M. Dalmat, Bringing Economic Justice Closer to Home: The Legal Viability of Local Minimum Wage Laws Under Home Rule, 39 Colum. J. L. & Soc. Probs. 93, 138 (2005).

[2] Id.

[3] Gene R. Nichol, Foreword: Wages, Work, Privilege, and Legal Education, 5 Harv. L. & Pol’y Rev. 1, 2 (2011).

[4] Id.

[5] William Quigley, Full-Time Workers Should Not Be Poor: The Living Wage Movement, 70 Miss L.J. 889, 944 (2001).

[6] Harry Hutchinson, Toward A Critical Race Reformist Conception of Minimum Wage Regimes: Exploding the Power of Myth, Fantasy, and Hierarchy, 34 Harv. J. Legis. 93, 134 (1997).

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