During the 1980s, the minimum wage fell relative to prices and average wages in the U.S. economy. If the minimum to average wage ratio had been constant at the level maintained through the 1970s, the minimum wage would have been $5.51 in 1993. If the 1993 minimum wage had increased to $5.51, payments to minimum wage workers would have increased by an estimated $20.3 billion, and the number of people earning that wage would have risen from 2.0 million to 14.7 million. Elasticity estimates generated from other studies indicate that employment would have fallen 240,000 (4.4%) among 16-19 year olds and 349,000 (3.0%) among 20-24 year olds. Wage payments to minimum wage workers would have substantially increased, but the effect on family income distribution would have been small. Many minimum wage workers are children living with parents or adults in a family with other earners. Consequently, 75% of minimum wage workers account for less than half of their family's income. Copyright 1996 Western Economic Association International.
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