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October 12, 2006
Economists: Raise the Minimum Wage

Five Nobel Prize winners and hundreds of other economists are urging Congress to raise the minimum wage.

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The economists signed a joint statement that said the value of the last minimum wage increase, which came in 1997, has eroded.

The economists calling for an increase to the minimum wage include Nobel Prize winners Kenneth Arrow of Stanford University, Clive Granger of University of California--San Diego, Lawrence Klein of the University of Pennsylvania, Robert Solow of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Joseph Stiglitz of Columbia University.

"The real value of today's federal minimum wage is less than it has been since 1951," the statement said. "Moreover, the ratio of the minimum wage to the average hourly wage of non-supervisory workers is 31 percent, its lowest level since World War II. This decline is causing hardship for low-wage workers and their families."

The economists said a modest increase in the federal minimum wage would improve the well-being of low-wage workers without having an adverse effect on the economy. Specifically, they said a proposal for a phased-in increase to $7.25 would benefit the labor market, workers, and the overall economy.

Opponents of an increase to the minimum wage argue that it would force employers to shed jobs.

The economists noted that 22 states and the District of Columbia have set their minimum wages above the federal level.

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