The Minimum Wage in Illinois

Increase or stay the same?

The Age Old Debate

It seems as though minimum wage is always a hot topic. People are always debating whether or not it should be raised or kept the same. The first federal minimum wage was set in 1938 and was $0.25. The minimum hourly wage in Illinois was first set at $1.40 in 1972. Since then, it has consistently risen until 2011 when it was set to $8.25, where it remains today. However, in the most recent election a question was posed to the people that asked if the minimum wage should be raised to $10 an hour. The question which was asked solely to get the opinions of the people of Illinois came back with 64% of voters in favor of the raise, and 32% against it. The people are definitely in favor of the raise, but is that really best for Illinois?

The Argument for an Increase

Minimum wage brings a wide range of benefits to both employees and business owners. There are plenty of studies to back up claims of reduction of turnover rates, greater productivity, better employee morale, and many more things. One 2003 study in a San Francisco reported these things when the minimum wage was raised from $6.45 to $10 an hour: the turnover rate of security screeners dropped from 95% to 19%, 35% of employers reported better worker performance, 47% reported better morale, 44% reported fewer disciplinary issues, and 45% reported better customer service. This is just one study of many that have all reported similar results. Raising the minimum wage also puts more money in the hands of consumers which increases their standard of living and puts more money back into the economy.

Another interesting statistic that points towards an increase is that the federal minimum wage in 1968 was worth $10.56 in today's dollars, while the federal minimum wage today is $7.25.

The Argument to Remain the Same

There are plenty of arguments against raising the minimum wage, but after doing the research some of them don't really add up. A big one is that most minimum wage workers are teenagers working part time, and don't need a lot of money because they have parents taking care of them. This couldn't be further from the truth, because 88% of minimum wage workers are at least 20 years old and the average age is 35. Most of the workers, 54%, also work full time (at least 35 hours a week), while 32% work at least half time (15-34 hours). On top of this, 27% of minimum wage workers are parents, meaning that 19% of kids in America would benefit from a minimum wage increase.

Although arguments like that don't add up, experts and economists have estimated some disastrous effects of a minimum wage increase. Barack Obama's proposed increase of the federal minimum wage to $10.10 may come at these costs: a loss of 500,000 American jobs, higher consumer prices, and experienced workers keeping low-wage jobs longer which will prevent young people, less skilled people, and people with little experience from receiving entry-level jobs.

The Solution

Based off of the research I have done, I think it would be best to raise the minimum wage for now. There is actually solid evidence behind the arguments for raising the wage, while everything against raising the wage are estimations. The increase will definitely have a positive impact on the workers, while the negative effects are not a certainty. Also, if things do start to go bad with the increase, it could always be lowered back to a manageable level.