A minimum wage is the lowest wage that employers may legally pay
to workers. The first minimum wage law was enacted in 1894
in New Zealand.
With the passage of The
Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), the U.S. minimum
wage was initially set at $0.25 per hour for covered
workers. Since then, it has been raised 22 separate
times–most recently, in July 2009, to $7.25 an hour.
The U.S.D.A.’s Economic Research Service monitors the extent and
severity of food insecurity in U.S. households through a
supplement to the Current Population Survey. Responses to a
series of 18 questions are used to determine whether a household
is food insecure.
The official poverty statistics do not track individuals or
households over time so there are no official data on poverty
Despite the lack of official data, other surveys do provide the
ability to track poverty status over time. Two recent studies
have used differing data sources and methods to provide some
insight into the characteristics of poverty spells.
Census Bureau Study
The Census Bureau has used monthly data from the Survey of Income
and Program Participation to look at poverty entry and
exit in the period 2009-2012.
In 2013, about 1.5 million U.S. workers age 16 and over earned
exactly the prevailing federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
Another 1.8 million had wages below the federal
minimum. Together these workers make up 4 percent of all
hourly paid workers.
In 2012, 46.5 million people were poor. The majority of the
people who live below the poverty level do not work. According to
data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 10.6 million or 23
percent of the poor were “working poor.”
There are two official measures of poverty: poverty guidelines
and poverty thresholds. Both of these measures are intended
to identify the level of income necessary to meet basic needs and
are updated annually.