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What state has the highest and the lowest minimum wage?

State minimum wages vary widely across the United States, and when given a choice, voters overwhelmingly vote to increase.

What state has the highest and the lowest minimum wage?
SPENCER PLATT AFP

As national campaigns like the “Fight for 15” gain steam in the United States, the disparities in wages across states for similar work have come to light. Twenty states set their lowest hourly rate paid to workers at the federal minimum, $7.25, which has not changed since 2009. On the high end of the spectrum, Washington DC and California have enacted policies to set their minimum wage at $15 and $14 an hour.

Some industries, like food and beverage, are exempt from paying their workers the minimum wage. Many tipped workers in the United States make an hourly wage far below their non-tipped counterparts. In 2017, about 2.3% of all waged workers in the US were paid at or below the federal minimum. These workers are disproportionately people of color and tend to be under 25. Additionally, researchers have shown that $7.25 an hour is not a livable wage for any worker in any state.

 How many states have voted to increase their minimum wage in the last ten years?

With the political will to increase the federal minimum wage out of sight, many states took the initiative and sent the question to their voters. Since 2013, propositions to raise the minimum wage have passed in Florida, Arkansas, Missouri, Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Washington, Alaska, Illinois, and New Jersey. When brought to the voters across traditionally red and blue states, not a single proposition to increase a state’s minimum wage has failed. In each of the cases above, these increases were staggered to give businesses time to adjust.

Broad political support across parties

In the 2020 election in Florida, voters favored Donald Trump and also approved a measure that would raise the state’s minimum wage from $8.56 an hour to $15 by 2026. While Donald Trump only won forty-nine percent of the vote in Florida, the wage proposition passed with sixty percent.

Voters in Arkansas have had two opportunities to increase the state’s minimum wage since 2013, and both times, over two-thirds of the electorate voted in favor. The lowest wage in Arkansas in 2013 was $7.25, and in 2014 voters approved an increase to $9.75. Then in the 2018 midterm elections, a measure was approved to increase to $11 by 2021. Arkansas is a deep red state. All of the state’s representatives on Capitol Hill and the governor are Republicans. Yet, this progressive proposal has succeeded twice, showing that this issue is not as partisan as some Washington insiders once believed.

What workers may see an increase in their wage this year?

Workers in eight states have or will see an increase of $1 or more in the hourly minimum wage this year. Any worker making under the minimum wage will see an increase.

Delaware: $9.25 to $10.25 (+$1.00)


Arkansas: $10.00 to $11.00 (+$1.00)


Illinois: $10.00 to $11.00 (+$1.00)


Rhode Island: $10.50 to 11.50 (+$1.00)


New Jersey: $11.00 to $12.00 (+1.00) 


California: $13.00 to $14.00 (+1.00)


New Mexico: $9.00 to $10.50 (+$1.50)


Virginia: $7.25 to $9.50 (+$2.25)


In addition to the states above, there are others whose law mandates that the minimum wage be adjusted for inflation each year.

What states have a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour?

Twenty states have a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, including:

• Alabama 


• Georgia


• Idaho


• Indiana


• Iowa


• Kansas


• Kentucky


• Louisiana


• Mississippi


• New Hampshire


• North Carolina


• North Dakota


• Oklahoma


• Pennsylvania


• South Carolina


• Tennessee


• Texas


• Utah


• Wisconsin


• Wyoming

When could the federal minimum wage be increased?

Some Democrats pushed to include an increase in the federal minimum wage to $15 as a part of the American Rescue Act. However, without any Republican support for the proposal, Biden had to rely on a Senate mechanism known as reconciliation to pass the legislation, and the minimum wage increase was removed during the process.

President Biden is set to announce the details of another economic proposal, the American Families Plan, during his first joint address to Congress tonight. There is some speculation that the increase to $15 an hour could be included in this package.