• As of April 2013, the federal minimum wage in the United States is $7.25 per hour. This means that employers operating in the U.S. are not allowed to pay their workers less than $7.25 for every hour they work.
     
    There are some complications, however! Minimum wages are actually set by individual states, territories, and cities. 
     
    Many of these regions set their minimum wages higher than the federal minimum wage. The highest minimum wage in the country is offered by the city of San Francisco, California, where workers are paid at least $10.55/hour. Washington has the highest minimum wage among states, at $9.19/hour. 
     
    States can also set their minimum wages lower than the federal minimum wage. Some states, such as Louisiana, have no official minimum wage at all. 
     
    In regions where the state or municipal minimum wage differs from the federal, the higher wage always applies. So, the minimum wage employers in Louisiana are legally permitted to pay workers is $7.25/hour. The minimum wage employers in Washington are legally permitted to pay workers is $9.19/hour. The minimum wage employers in San Francisco are legally permitted to pay workers is $10.55/hour.
     
    The minimum wage for tipped employees, such as waitstaff, is calculated differently. The federal minimum wage for tipped employees is $2.13/hour. This wage anticipates an hourly tip of $5.12. If an employee does not amass $5.12/hour in tips, the employer is required to pay that amount to the employee. This brings a tipped employee’s minimum wage to the federal rate, $7.25/hour.
     
    Teaching Strategies
     
    The “Questions” and “Fast Facts” in the following tabs offer suggestions for using this map as a learning tool. 
     
    Use the “Questions” to help younger students develop map-reading skills.
     
    Use “Fast Facts” to better understand how individuals and families rely on the minimum wage.
    1. Color is an important consideration for mapmakers. Why do students think the cartographers who made the “Minimum Wage in the U.S.” map chose the colors they did?

      The cartographers probably chose different shades of green because data on the map has to do with money. In the United States, the color green is associated with money—in fact, dollars are nicknamed “greenbacks.”

    2. Scale is another important consideration for mapmakers. Small-scale maps often depict large areas (such as the Earth) while large-scale maps often depict smaller regions (such as cities) in greater detail. Why do students think the cartographers who created the “Minimum Wage in the U.S.” map chose the scale they did?

      Answers will vary!
       
      A (small-scale) map of the world would not display enough detail to help people understand the map’s information on minimum wage in the U.S. Cartographers could add data on the minimum wage in other nations to make a small-scale map more meaningful.
       
      A (large-scale) map of cities or counties in the U.S. would be far too detailed to help people understand state laws on the minimum wage. Cartographers could add data on the minimum wage in cities or counties to make a large-scale map more meaningful.
    3. The “Minimum Wage in the United States” map is a political map. Political maps show the boundaries of states, countries, or other government divisions. Why do students think the cartographers who made the map chose to visualize their data on a political map instead of a topographic map or road map?

      Topographic maps display information on the topography, or surface features of a region. Road maps display information on roads, streets, and highways of a region. Neither one of these maps would be helpful in displaying the minimum wages of different U.S. states. A political map, which shows state borders, is a more logical way to display, or visualize, this information.

    4. Maps are not the only way to display information. Graphs and charts are other popular data visualization platforms. How do students think a chart or graph on the U.S. minimum wage could help people better understand the concept? What features does the map offer that a chart or graph lacks?

      Answers will vary!
       
      A pie chart could display which percentage of states follow the federal minimum wage and which have a higher minimum wage.
       
      A graph could display information on the states’ minimum wages, ranked from lowest-to-highest or highest-to lowest.
       
      The map displays geographic patterns in the data, which charts and graphs cannot: The two states with the highest minimum wages are both in the Pacific Northwest, for instance, while most states in the Midwest and South follow the federal minimum wage. Students can research some reasons as to why these patterns exist. (Perhaps the cost of living is higher in the Pacific Northwest, making the federal minimum wage worth less in that region, or perhaps there is more competition for minimum-wage jobs in the South, allowing employers to offer lower wages.)
    • The sector with the most minimum wage workers in the U.S. is “Leisure and Hospitality,” which includes the fast-food industry.
    • In no state can a minimum-wage worker afford to rent an affordable two-bedroom unit working the standard 40 hours a week. (“Affordable” means that no more than 30% of a worker’s income is spent on rent.) To afford a two-bedroom apartment, a minimum-wage worker in Arkansas or West Virginia would need to work 63 hours a week. In Hawaii, a minimum wage worker would have to work 175 hours a week. (There are 168 hours in a week.)
    • Women are more likely than men to earn the minimum wage. About 6% of women earning an hourly wage in the U.S. earn the minimum wage, while about 3.4% of men do.
    • The purchasing power of the federal minimum wage is sometimes called the “real minimum wage.” The purchasing power of the federal minimum wage was highest in 1968, when the $1.60/hour minimum wage had a “real” value of $10.57/hour.
    • As of March 2013, 284,000 college graduates, including 37,000 with advanced degrees, have minimum wage jobs in the United States.
    • Nations take different approaches to the minimum wage. Nations with the highest minimum wages (expressed in American dollars) are Luxembourg ($10.40/hour), France ($10.20/hour), Australia ($9.80/hour), Belgium ($9.50/hour), and the Netherlands ($9.20/hour). Some nations, such as Germany, do not have a federal minimum wage at all. In Germany, labor unions and employers negotiate different minimum wage standards for each industry.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    employer Noun

    person or organization that hires people for wages and salaries.

    federal Adjective

    having to do with a nation's government (as opposed to local or regional government).

    minimum wage Noun

    least amount of money an employer is allowed to pay by law.

    tip Noun

    money or other compensation, in addition to general wages, offered directly to a person for performing a service. Also called a gratuity.

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