Recently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) produced a report on the “Characteristics of Minimum Wage Workers” for 2014. Of all 77.2 million hourly workers, less than one in twenty-five earns the minimum wage. Since this data was first collected 35 years ago, the number earning minimum wage has gone down from the 13.4% in 1979 to 3.9% in 2014.
See full report: http://www.bls.gov/opub/reports/cps/characteristics-of-minimum-wage-workers-2014.pdf
Of the 3.9% minimum wage earners, over half were teenagers, mostly females, most working part-time in low paying service industries, and in low cost of living states and rural areas.
The federal minimum wage was 25 cents in 1938 when it became law. Adjusted for inflation, that would be worth $4.13 today. Below are minimum wages for the last 35 years when this report was first conducted:
Federal Minimum Wage Effective date
$2.90 January 1, 1979
$3.10 January 1, 1980
$3.35 January 1, 1981
$3.80 April 1, 1990
$4.25 April 1, 1991
$4.75 Oct. 1, 1996
$5.15 Sept. 1, 1997
$5.85 July 24, 2007
$6.55 July 24, 2008
$7.25 July 24, 2009
During the 35-year time period, over 50 million new jobs were created as the economy and population grew. But the value of the minimum wage has not kept up with inflation, decreasing by almost 30% as measured by the CPI (Consumer Price Index). 
Many well-meaning people think the minimum wage should be increased, and substantially; many Christians believe it is moral or even Biblical to support this view. Others believe that a minimum wage set freely by agreement between employer and employee is best in a free society, and supports human dignity. For those with few or no skills and lack education, the minimum wage may be a barrier to gaining the experience and developing the abilities needed to advance. Some will never have a starting point or the opportunity to gain basic skills or further training which would allow them to move beyond the minimum wage. The minimum wage is not a living wage but, as the data has shown, very few states and jurisdictions are attempting to use it as such. It is unrealistic to think that a minimum wage can ever equal a living wage even if society could agree to what that number would be.
Over 50 years ago, in “Newsweek” magazine, Milton Freidman (1966) predicted:
• Raising the minimum wage will increase minority, teen, and women’s unemployment.
• Machinery will be used to replace humans in the workplace and prices will increase throughout the economy.
• Those that will be hurt the most will be the very poor, low paid, and unskilled in our society. 
It appears that Friedman may have been correct in his predictions.
Questions for Reflection
• How does the Bible inform your understanding for what stance should be taken on minimum wage?
• Does it matter that the federal minimum wage equates to annual earnings that fall below the established U.S. poverty lines for single-earner households with two or more persons?
• If raising the minimum wage is not the ultimate answer for helping to raise people out of poverty, what is?
Update for 2016 per the National Conference of State Legislators:
14 states begin the new year with higher minimum wages. Of those, 12 states increased their rates through legislation passed in the 2014 or 2015 sessions, while two states automatically increased their rates based on the cost of living. 
 State or U.S. jurisdiction minimum wages may differ from the federal minimum wage. They may be set higher, lower, the same, or with no minimum wage level, with the highest level required to be paid. Go to the map Minimum Wage Laws in the States – January 1, 2016 and click on specific states or jurisdictions to learn about the minimum wage laws.
 There are three different forms of wages: minimum wage, prevailing wage, and living wage. To learn more, read the Society for Human Resource Management (2012) article: Minimum Wage: What is the Difference between Minimum Wage, Prevailing Wage and Living Wage, and to Whom Does Each Apply?
 National Conference of State Legislatures. (2016). State minimum wages. 2016 minimum wage by state. Retrieved from http://www.ncsl.org/research/labor-and-employment/state-minimum-wage-chart.aspx