Thursday, July 31, 2014

A new map by the Public Health Law Research Program charts the changes in the federal and state minimum wage laws dating back to 1980.

Since establishing a standard minimum wage rate for qualified employees in 1938, the federal minimum wage has been increased 22 times – from 25 cents per hour to the current rate of $7.25, which was established in July 2009. The current rate equates to roughly $15,000 per year for a 40-hour work week.

“By tracking the changes to the rates and the law’s characteristics over time, we have laid the ground work for researchers and others to study the effects of minimum wage laws on many factors, such as housing, education, and health and well-being,” said Sarah Happy, JD, the Public Health Law Research (PHLR) program’s Director of Policy Surveillance. The map can be found at

This map highlights a few key trends in the US state and federal minimum wage laws:

  • Since 1938, 45 states and Washington, DC have passed their own minimum wage laws, including three states in the past 24 years. Arizona is the state to most recently establish a minimum wage law.

  • There are currently five states that have no state minimum wage law: Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee.

  • In many states, the recent trend has been to increase the minimum wage above the federal rate and adjust it yearly for inflation. Currently, Washington, DC has the highest state minimum wage rate at $9.50 an hour.

  • Alaska and Connecticut are the only two states that have had a minimum wage rate consistently higher than the federal minimum wage rate since 1980.

  • Four states have rates lower than the federal rate: Arkansas, Georgia, Minnesota and Wyoming. Georgia and Wyoming tie for the lowest rate at $5.15. In these states, except for a few exceptions, workers would receive the $7.25 minimum wage.

The map is one of more than 25 on the PHLR website that tracks laws across states and over time in more than 10 public health issue areas, including chronic disease, injury and violence prevention and environmental health.

An expanded map plotting broader characteristics of the state minimum wage laws is scheduled for release in January 2015.  

Bethany Swanson Saxon
tel.: 215-204-2134