Why Doesn’t America Raise the Federal Minimum Wage

As we look at our living expenses and income it isn’t hard to believe that people can still live at the minimum wage level. In the U.S alone, there are roughly 313 million people, 1.6 million of those Americans are living under or right at $7.25 an hour. Of those 1.6 million there are 484,000 people who are between the ages of 16 to 19 (Desilver). These numbers and statistics raise a lot of questions since the minimum wage law went into affect in 2009 (NCSL). But the big question that most people should be asking is why don’t we raise the federal minimum wage? Growing up in Iowa, Nebraska, South or North Dakota and several other states where the state and federal minimum wage are tied together, it is hard to make any decent money off of $7.25 while being a college student.

My first semester of college expenses included cost of gas, food, books, and supplies. It does not seem like much, but when it adds up you feel like you’re paying for a brand new car all at once. But I’m not the average example of every college kid’s life or expenses. Most college students base their life on clothes, books, food, gas, housing, cellphone and various other electronics. In my own experience I have spent almost $2,100 in my first semester at college. Tuition alone covers about 60% of that $2,100. Other factors include simple needs from food to supplies. In the modern day economy I feel that it is extremely hard to budget and still keep in the mind of school and work. Even adding a social life can also degrade how much time you spend with others. These factors all sum up how much an education can cost, but on another side there is a way students can save money while still going to college.

The one place that ultimately saves most college kids’ expenses that are living near their university is their home. When most kids are still in high school they feel the need to move out as soon as possible, but never at first would they think of how much it would cost for housing or an apartment. Even college students try to find the weirdest ways in saving cash and when it comes to dorm or living expenses it can really put a damper on your checking account. In most cases, such as a couple of my friends, have moved away from home due to longer travel time to school or family relationship troubles that drove them to move out. In different parts of the U.S. minimum wage laws are spread out evenly with different standards. For parts of the eastern and western coasts, minimum wage laws are higher than what they would be in the Midwest region where the minimum wage laws are the same as the federal limit (DOL).

But some other states such as Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Minnesota have wage laws set higher than the federal limit. For example, Illinois’ minimum wage is currently $8.25 hourly, $1 more than the federal minimum wage (Ihejirika). According to the Department Of Labor, these selected states mentioned before serve as an example for others when looking at increasing the minimum wage. But in these states there are only little raises from nearly $0.25 to more than $1.85. The highest minimum wage level in any state of the U.S is placed at $9.32 in Oregon (DOL). A motel in Grant Pass, Oregon recently announced that they pay higher wages over the federal wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour (Perez). The business owners say, “Higher wages do not just help workers, but their bosses too.” These higher wages lead to greater work retention, reduced training costs, higher morale and ultimately more profits (Perez).

When putting more money into the pockets of working families, they spend it on goods and services that will help businesses grow and, in the end, create more jobs. Plus on another side, raising the wage floor customer base and consumption is what drives economic growth (Perez). Some people say that increasing our minimum wage law will give Americans the opportunity to have a more stable financial future. With the growing of most restaurant industries nearly 47% of the U.S.’s workforce is occupied by food preparation and or serving related occupations (Desilver). Most of that percentage is filled with minimum wage paid Americans between the ages of 16-24 (Desilver). These percentages take on a huge aspect as to why people are getting a college education so that they can enter into a well-paid career.

Paying college students minimum wage affects them greatly in the long run, in various ways including juggling schoolwork, a job, and family/friends. Some college students don’t have the requested wage that they would want which drags them to cut down their budget even lower. But some universities are now giving college students who work on campus a better chance at getting that wage. Starting September 1st the states minimum wage will rise to $8.15 an hour from $7.40(Gautz). Nate Hoekstra, a communications specialist for Grand Valley State University, says that “We find student employment helps the retention of students, also provides students with work experience”. This will not only increase raises among students but also decrease University budget spending.

Some colleges such as Central Michigan University will employ almost 4,000 students this fall costing them almost $691,000(Gautz). For other colleges such as the University of Michigan, Lawrence Technological University and Walsh College do not employ anyone who meets the minimum wage. At this current moment these colleges are not expecting the increase to have any effect at all. These raises to students not only affect budgets to schools but also businesses. In looking at things in a sociologist’s perspective there are several viewpoints we can see. According to Kingsley Davis and Wilbert E. Moore, structural functional sociologists claim that higher paying jobs require more talent than minimum wage paying jobs. Also, some individuals are more qualified than others and should be awarded for their abilities. In addition to Davis and Moore, these low paying jobs serve as a key purpose for society.

If wages on one hand stay the same in logical terms this will motivate others to achieve a higher income job. On another hand, if wages were raised there would have to be a rise in prices or cut in hours among the workers in order to catch up with employee wages. This increase in wages to business owners or smaller companies would drive businesses to avoid hiring more employees to prevent higher expenses. Just raising one employee’s wage to $8.25 would cost the business $15,000 a year (Croteau). But in order to balance each side, increasing wages will result in more spending that will affect the employers. Being a young adult there is a lot to look at and learn from when it comes to budgeting money. You have to look at it as a way of wanting only two things your “Want’s” and your “Need’s”. When we look at this expression we usually go straight for the new pair of shoes or a brand new phone.

But glancing at it the second time we ultimately see what we should have bought due to the excessive demand for needs rather than our wants. My first year of high school didn’t affect me money wise at all because I was only 14 and I didn’t have much to buy or need to pay for. The only things that I really needed to pay for were tickets to football games or food for when I go out with friends. As my sophomore and middle of junior year went by, I began to notice a reoccurring trend that started to develop. As years go by there would be an increase in my spending. Some of these expenses would include food, extra school fees for trips, or even clothes.

By the end of my junior year to now the increase in money I spent doubled. When you get older there are other needs you must apply to your life such as gas for a car, sport fees, and even entertainment for when you hangout with friends. This pattern continues to increase as teenagers turn into adults. And for those adults who can’t make a decent living will not be able to keep up with their living expenses. As of right now I am looking at living expenses very differently and trying to encourage my friends about the reasons as to why you should watch your expenses in college. Going to a community college such as DMACC, you’re getting the same education as you would be getting at a university such as Iowa or Iowa State.

But the only catch between these two is that you will be paying a lot less at a community college than a university. At my time at DMACC I will be spending roughly 1-2 years achieving some of my regular general education courses. Within those 1-2 years I will be spending roughly $9,000-$16,000 on college fees, excluding housing. If you were to attend a university your first two years you would be spending on average $22,826 (COLLEGEdata). All universities are different and the price of college all depends on what your major is and how long you plan on being in college. This also goes the same for when you have to move out into your own place.

Renting or even owning is hard to do alone even when in college. As for me, I currently stay at home living with my family. To me there is no reason as to why students should waste precious Benjamin’s on housing when you can stay at home. Average cost of board and room from year of 2013-2014 ranged from $9,500 to $10,830 (COLLEGEdata). Adding up housing of $9,500, food and tuition cost of $22,826, and books for $1,207 for a university would total to $33,533. With the total of tuition from DMACC all I am paying right now comes to $16,821, if I stay 2 years. I am literally paying half the amount of money that I would of had to pay if I went to a well-known university.

These numbers all lay back as to why we should raise the minimum wage, from looking at it in a young adults perspective that is still in college or a maintenance worker who has to support his family. Each American should be entitled to a better living than $15,000 a year. Whether Americans want to go back to school to advance on their degree or make extra cash. Just by looking at common sense and facts ask your self one thing; is this a Want or a Need in American society? In the end of all this American’s struggle each day to make it through life in the financial world. The minimum wage should be increased to give American’s a more stable stance when it comes to budgeting money or even starting school again. Some American’s today can be able to live from paycheck to paycheck or others could still have little amounts of cash left to spend. But can a mother on the minimum wage level raising two kids be able to live off of $15,000 a year.

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