April 2015, David Cooper, Lawrence Mishel and John Schmitt

This paper shows that raising the minimum wage to $12.00 an hour by 2020 is an achievable and economically sustainable goal, and stands within U.S. historical experience. The paper finds that increases in worker productivity and education levels, along with wage increases in regions that paid lower-than-national wages in the past, make returning to the 1968 norm in 2020 an achievable target. An increase to $12 per hour would modestly raise the minimum wage’s purchasing power and roughly restore the relationship between the minimum wage and workers in the middle relative to 1968 levels, when the minimum wage was at its historical peak and the national unemployment rate was less than 4 percent.

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