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Economic Commentary

Will Increasing the Minimum Wage Help the Poor?

After holding at $3.35 per hour from 1983 to 1989, the minimum wage has been raised four times over the past decade, reaching $5.15 per hour in September 1997. Recently, the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 1999 was introduced in Congress; if enacted, it would raise the minimum wage an additional dollar over the next two years to $6.15.1 According to its proponents, the primary rationale for increasing the minimum wage is to raise the incomes of poor and near-poor families with members in the workforce. Introducing the Fair Minimum Wage Act in the U.S. Senate on January 19, 1999, Senator Edward Kennedy declared, “I intend to do all I can to see that the minimum wage is increased this year. No one who works for a living should have to live in poverty.”

The views authors express in Economic Commentary are theirs and not necessarily those of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland or the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. The series editor is Tasia Hane. This paper and its data are subject to revision; please visit for updates.

Suggested Citation

Neumark, David, Mark E. Schweitzer, and William Wascher. 1999. “Will Increasing the Minimum Wage Help the Poor?” Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, Economic Commentary 2/1/1999.

This work by Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International