An interesting video infographic by Time that maps out the history of the minimum wage in America over the years. One of the topics that has been of hot discussion lately since December 2013 is raising the minimum wage. Some are for and some are against it.
The video starts off in 1938 when Franklin Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act. From there, we are taken through the minimum wage increases to present day. Their video lists two numbers. The first is the wage at that time and the second number is adjusted in 2014 dollars.
If the video is unplayable, I have gone through and transcribed the video for your convenience.
In 1938, the very first federal minimum wage was set at $0.25 cents an hour when Franklin Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
The wage is not tied to the rate of inflation so it only goes up through congressional action. Twenty two times since 1938, Congress and the President have worked together to raise it.
Here’s a look when the wages have gone up over time. Keep an eye on the number in blue, which shows you how much that amount would be worth in today’s dollars.
October 1938 (Roosevelt)
Minimum wage: $0.25 / hour
In 2014 dollars: $4.15 / hour
October 1939 (Roosevelt) – First televised World Series
Minimum wage: $0.30 / hour
In 2014 dollars: $5.05 / hour
October 1945 (Truman) – UN Charter comes into effect
Minimum wage: $0.40 / hour
In 2014 dollars: $5.20 / hour
January 1950 (Truman) – Truman approves development of Hydrogen Bomb
Minimum wage: $0.75 / hour
In 2014 dollars: $7.29 / hour
March 1956 (Eisenhower) – Dow Jones closes above 500 for first time
Minimum wage: $1.00 / hour
In 2014 dollars: $8.61 / hour
September 1961 (Kennedy) – Bob Dylan’s first recording session
Minimum wage: $1.15 / hour
In 2014 dollars: $9.00 / hour
September 1963 (Kennedy) – JFK Addresses UN for last time
Minimum wage: $1.25 / hour
In 2014 dollars: $9.56 / hour
February 1967 (Johnson) – The “Summer of Love” dawns across America
Minimum wage: $1.40 / hour
In 2014 dollars: $9.80 / hour
February 1968 (Johnson) – Americans shocked by images from Vietnam
Minimum wage: $1.60 / hour
In 2014 dollars: $10.75 / hour
May 1974 (Nixon) – Impreachment of Richard Nixon begins
Minimum wage: $2.00 / hour
In 2014 dollars: $9.49 / hour
January 1975 (Ford) – “Wheel of Fortune” debuts on NBC
Minimum wage: $2.10 / hour
In 2014 dollars: $9.13 / hour
January 1975 (Ford) – US celebrates its Bicentennial
Minimum wage: $2.30 / hour
In 2014 dollars: $9.46 / hour
January 1978 (Carter) – Bee Gee’s “Saturday Night Fever” album hits No. 1 for 24 weeks.
Minimum wage: $2.65 / hour
In 2014 dollars: $9.51 / hour
January 1979 (Carter) – US & China begin diplomatic relations
Minimum wage: $2.90 / hour
In 2014 dollars: $9.34 / hour
January 1980 (Carter) – US Boycotts Olympics in Moscow
Minimum wage: $3.10 / hour
In 2014 dollars: $8.80 / hour
January 1981 (Carter) – Ronald Regan inaugurated
Minimum wage: $3.35 / hour
In 2014 dollars: $8.62 / hour
April 1990 (Bush) – Wrecking cranes begin tearing down Berlin Wall
Minimum wage: $3.80 / hour
In 2014 dollars: $6.83 / hour
April 1991 (Bush) – UN sets ceasefire terms for Iraq & Kuwait
Minimum wage: $4.25 / hour
In 2014 dollars: $7.30 / hour
October 1996 (Clinton) – Bob Dole debates Bill Clinton
Minimum wage: $4.75 / hour
In 2014 dollars: $7.09 / hour
September 1997 (Clinton) – Princess Diana’s Funeral
Minimum wage: $5.15 / hour
In 2014 dollars: $7.51 / hour
July 2007 (W. Bush) – Credit ratings agencies downgrade many mortgage backed securities
Minimum wage: $5.85 / hour
In 2014 dollars: $6.61 / hour
July 2008 (W. Bush) – Bush enacts House & Economic Recovery Act
Minimum wage: $6.55 / hour
In 2014 dollars: $7.12 / hour
July 2009 (Obama) – Obama hosts “Beer Summit” at White House
Minimum wage: $7.25 / hour
In 2014 dollars: $7.82 / hour
Minimum wage: $7.25 / hour
In 2014 dollars: $7.25 / hour
At its peak, the minimum wage in 1968 was worth $10.75 in today’s dollars, but the purchasing power that goes with it has not kept up.
So if you earn minimum wage in the 1960s, it was enough to fill up your basket with a week’s groceries. But those earning minimum wage now would have to put some of those items back.
Image credit: Screenshot from the video.