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Minimum Wage: Introduction

Resources for the study of minimum wage increases from 1970 until present day. Prepared for LIBS 6815.


Welcome to the Anne Moss-Biggs Library's topic guide for the study of minimum wage increases from 1970s to the present.  Intended for political science students, use this guide to find authoritative data sources, books, and scholarly journal articles for your research and assignments covering the following subtopics:

  • general history of minimum wage in the United States
  • political history -- including laws and court cases-- of minimum wage debate
  • increases in the minimum wage from 1970 to the present
  • economic effects of minimum wage increases
  • correlation among the minimum wage, poverty levels, and income inequality

Brief History of the Topic

According to the Center for Poverty Research at the University of California, Davis (2018), a minimum wage "is the lowest wage that employers may legally pay to workers." 

While New Zealand passed the first minimum wage law, the United States passed the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), which set the first federal minimum wage at $.25. The wage has increased approximately 22 times since 1938, and as of 2009, currently resides at $7.25 per hour.  Throughout the history of its increase, both advocates and critics have debated the pros and cons of the increasing the minimum wage, juxtaposing increases in standard of living with its impact on economic sectors and indicators, specifically on consumer prices and the unemployment rate.  

Today, the debate still rages, especially in light of recent state minimum wage laws, which have increased the minimum wage in some places to as high as $11.00.  In fact, only five states (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, and South Carolina) do not have minimum wage laws; 14 states have minimum wages set at the federal rate; and 29 states have minimum wages higher than the current federal rate.

Source: Center for Poverty Research at the University of California, Davis. (2018). What is the history of the minimum wage? Retrieved from

Timeline | History of the Minimum Wage

Fair Labor Standards Act Of 1938, As Amended

Overview of Issues | Recent Government Reports

*As recommended by the Center for Poverty Research, UC-Davis,