The possibility of getting ahead while earning the minimum wage has gotten much dimmer since 1979, a report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (PDF) shows.
The hours you'd have to work at minimum wage to pay tuition at the average public four-year college, for instance, have grown from 254 to 923. There are now more grants and loans than in 1979, partially offsetting that rise—but only partially, and the $1 trillion in student loan debt today tells reminds us where working hard and getting an education can leave you.
Paying for individual health coverage in 2011 took more than twice as many hours at the minimum wage as paying for a family health insurance policy did in 1979; a family policy in 2011 while working full time at minimum wage would leave you one hour of pay in the entire year to spend on anything but health insurance.
The CEPR report concludes by pointing out that:
Minimum-wage workers today may be able to buy DVD players that did not exist in 1979, but at the current level of the minimum wage, they are also far less able to cover college tuition or health-insurance premiums.What do you think is a better measure of economic well-being, DVD players or health care?