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How much the US minimum wage was actually worth the year you...

HOW MUCH MINIMUM WAGE WAS WORTH THE YEAR YOU WERE BORN | Here's what the federal minimum was the year you were born and how much its true value actually was.
(George Konig/Getty Images)

How much the US minimum wage was actually worth the year you were born

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In 1938, the first federal minimum wage was established at $0.25 an hour across the country. Adjusted for inflation, however, that would only be worth $4.63 an hour today. Cities and states have the option to set their own minimum wages, and currently, 29 states and Washington, D.C., have minimum wages above the current federal rate of $7.25 per hour. However, for states where the federal minimum wage applies, workers are experiencing the longest period in history without an increase in the federal minimum wage. The federal minimum wage was intended to establish "the wages of decent living" for workers across industries, according to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Despite these intentions, the minimum wage has not guaranteed a living wage for workers for most of its existence. Though the minimum wage has been raised more than 20 times over the decades, it has not kept pace with inflation and the cost of living in many places across the U.S. That means that although wages were generally higher, workers were able to afford less when paid at that rate. This is clear when you adjust the minimum wage each year to February 2021 dollars using the Consumer Price Index. When adjusted for inflation, the "best" the minimum wage has ever been was in 1968. Though it was $1.60 an hour, today, that's the equivalent of more than $12 an hour. Here's what the federal minimum was the year you were born and how much its true value actually was.
(Kaitlin Miller, Tribune Content Agency)
How much the US minimum wage was actually worth the year you were born
HOW MUCH MINIMUM WAGE WAS WORTH THE YEAR YOU WERE BORN | Here's what the federal minimum was the year you were born and how much its true value actually was.
HOW MUCH MINIMUM WAGE WAS WORTH THE YEAR YOU WERE BORN | Here's what the federal minimum was the year you were born and how much its true value actually was. (George Konig/Getty Images)
1938
1938 | On June 25, 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the landmark Fair Labor Standards Act, which established a federal minimum wage of $0.25 an hour. That's the equivalent of $4.63 in 2021 dollars.
1938 | On June 25, 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the landmark Fair Labor Standards Act, which established a federal minimum wage of $0.25 an hour. That's the equivalent of $4.63 in 2021 dollars. (H. F. Davis/Getty Images)
1939
1939 | One year after it was established, the federal minimum wage was raised to $0.30 an hour. The value of that amount in 2021 is $5.64.
1939 | One year after it was established, the federal minimum wage was raised to $0.30 an hour. The value of that amount in 2021 is $5.64. (Fox Photos/Getty Images)
1940
1940 | The federal minimum wage remained $0.30 in 1940, amounting to $5.68 in 2021 dollars.
1940 | The federal minimum wage remained $0.30 in 1940, amounting to $5.68 in 2021 dollars. (H. Armstrong Roberts/Retrofile/Getty Images)
1941
1941 | In 1941, the value of the $0.30 federal minimum remained consistent. Adjusted for inflation today, it would be worth $5.60 an hour.
1941 | In 1941, the value of the $0.30 federal minimum remained consistent. Adjusted for inflation today, it would be worth $5.60 an hour. (Fred Ramage/Getty Images)
1942
1942 | After the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. entered World War II. Though the minimum wage held steady at $0.30 an hour, it's value decreased. In today's money, it would be worth $5.03.
1942 | After the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. entered World War II. Though the minimum wage held steady at $0.30 an hour, it's value decreased. In today's money, it would be worth $5.03. (Keystone Features/Getty Images)
1943
1943 | The purchasing power of the $0.30 federal minimum wage continued to plummet, with it only being equivalent to $4.67 an hour today.
1943 | The purchasing power of the $0.30 federal minimum wage continued to plummet, with it only being equivalent to $4.67 an hour today. (Fox Photos/Getty Images)
1944
1944 | 1944 was the last year the federal minimum wage was $0.30. Its value today would be $4.53.
1944 | 1944 was the last year the federal minimum wage was $0.30. Its value today would be $4.53. (Harry Todd/Getty Images)
1945
1945 | In 1945, the federal minimum wage was increased to $0.40, where it remained for the next five years. That rate is worth $5.91 today.
1945 | In 1945, the federal minimum wage was increased to $0.40, where it remained for the next five years. That rate is worth $5.91 today. (Keystone/Getty Images)
1946
1946 | The value of the federal minimum wage dipped slightly for 1946, shaking out to $5.78 today.
1946 | The value of the federal minimum wage dipped slightly for 1946, shaking out to $5.78 today. (ERIC SCHWAB/AFP via Getty Images)
1947
1947 | The purchasing power of $.40 an hour dropped significantly in 1947, which saw the U.S. solidified in the Cold War. In today's money, it was only worth $4.89.
1947 | The purchasing power of $.40 an hour dropped significantly in 1947, which saw the U.S. solidified in the Cold War. In today's money, it was only worth $4.89. (Fox Photos/Getty Images)
1948
1948 | The value of the $.40 minimum wage dropped again in 1948 to $4.44 in today's dollars.
1948 | The value of the $.40 minimum wage dropped again in 1948 to $4.44 in today's dollars. (Haywood Magee/Getty Images)
1949
1949 | The $0.40 federal minimum wage in 1949 would be worth $4.38 in today's dollars.
1949 | The $0.40 federal minimum wage in 1949 would be worth $4.38 in today's dollars. (Express/Getty Images)
1950
1950 | In January of 1950, the federal minimum wage was raised to by 35 cents to $0.75. This was the equivalent to $8.39 today.
1950 | In January of 1950, the federal minimum wage was raised to by 35 cents to $0.75. This was the equivalent to $8.39 today. (Central Press/Getty Images)
1951
1951 | The federal minimum wage remained set at $0.75 for five years. In 1951, this rate was the equivalent of only $7.77 today.
1951 | The federal minimum wage remained set at $0.75 for five years. In 1951, this rate was the equivalent of only $7.77 today. (Fred Morley/Getty Images)
1952
1952 | The $0.75 minimum wage in 1952 would be equivalent to $7.44 in 2021. Its value dropped $0.33 from the year before.
1952 | The $0.75 minimum wage in 1952 would be equivalent to $7.44 in 2021. Its value dropped $0.33 from the year before. (Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
1953
1953 | The value of the $0.75 minimum wage dropped slightly to $7.42 in 1953.
1953 | The value of the $0.75 minimum wage dropped slightly to $7.42 in 1953. (Orlando/Getty Images)
1954
1954 | The buying power of the $0.75 minimum wage dipped again in 1954 to $7.33 in today's dollars. That's almost a dollar's difference from 1950.
1954 | The buying power of the $0.75 minimum wage dipped again in 1954 to $7.33 in today's dollars. That's almost a dollar's difference from 1950. (Central Press/Getty Images)
1955
1955 | The value of the $0.75 minimum wage improved only slightly in 1955 to the equivalent of $7.39 in 2021.
1955 | The value of the $0.75 minimum wage improved only slightly in 1955 to the equivalent of $7.39 in 2021. (Three Lions/Getty Images)
1956
1956 | In March 1956, the federal minimum wage was increased by 25 cents to $1.00. This bumped up the buying power of minimum wage to $9.81 in today's money.
1956 | In March 1956, the federal minimum wage was increased by 25 cents to $1.00. This bumped up the buying power of minimum wage to $9.81 in today's money. (Three Lions/Getty Images)
1957
1957 | The value of the $1.00 minimum wage dropped slightly but was still strong in 1957 when it was worth the equivalent of $9.53 today.
1957 | The value of the $1.00 minimum wage dropped slightly but was still strong in 1957 when it was worth the equivalent of $9.53 today. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
1958
1958 | In 1958, the $1.00 federal minimum wage was worth the equivalent of $9.20 today.
1958 | In 1958, the $1.00 federal minimum wage was worth the equivalent of $9.20 today. (Keystone/Getty Images)
1959
1959 | In 1959, the value of the $1.00 federal minimum wage decreased again to the equivalent of $9.07 in 2021.
1959 | In 1959, the value of the $1.00 federal minimum wage decreased again to the equivalent of $9.07 in 2021. (Rosemary Matthews/Getty Images)
1960
1960 | In the final year the minimum wage was $1.00, its purchasing power dipped below $9 today. It would be the equivalent of $8.98 an hour in 2021.
1960 | In the final year the minimum wage was $1.00, its purchasing power dipped below $9 today. It would be the equivalent of $8.98 an hour in 2021. (Peter Dunne/Getty Images)
1961
1961 | After John F. Kennedy became president in 1961, the federal minimum wage was increased to $1.15. This pushed the value of minimum wage back over $10, putting it at $10.15 in today's money.
1961 | After John F. Kennedy became president in 1961, the federal minimum wage was increased to $1.15. This pushed the value of minimum wage back over $10, putting it at $10.15 in today's money. (William Lovelace/Getty Images)
1962
1962 | The federal minimum wage remained at $1.15 for just one more year, with its value decreasing slightly to $10.08.
1962 | The federal minimum wage remained at $1.15 for just one more year, with its value decreasing slightly to $10.08. (Helmut Kretz/Getty Images)
1963
1963 | Following the historic March on Washington in August of 1963, whose organizers were pushing for a $2 an hour minimum wage, the federal minimum wage was bumped up by 10 cents to $1.25. That would be worth $10.71 an hour today.
1963 | Following the historic March on Washington in August of 1963, whose organizers were pushing for a $2 an hour minimum wage, the federal minimum wage was bumped up by 10 cents to $1.25. That would be worth $10.71 an hour today. (Fox Photos/Getty Images)
1964
1964 | In 1964, the $1.25 was worth a bit less, ringing in at $10.64 in today's money.
1964 | In 1964, the $1.25 was worth a bit less, ringing in at $10.64 in today's money. (Central Press/Getty Images)
1965
1965 | The federal minimum wage of $1.25 in 1965 was worth $10.54 in 2021 dollars.
1965 | The federal minimum wage of $1.25 in 1965 was worth $10.54 in 2021 dollars. (Keystone/Getty Images)
1966
1966 | 1966 was the final year the minimum wage stayed at $1.25. That year, it was the equivalent of $10.34 today.
1966 | 1966 was the final year the minimum wage stayed at $1.25. That year, it was the equivalent of $10.34 today. (Evening Standard/Getty Images)
1967
1967 | In 1967, the federal minimum wage increased to $1.40, which is worth $11.19 today, almost $4 more than today's minimum wage.
1967 | In 1967, the federal minimum wage increased to $1.40, which is worth $11.19 today, almost $4 more than today's minimum wage. (Matt Green/Getty Images)
1968
1968 | In 1968, the federal minimum wage increased again to $1.60 an hour. This marks the peak buying power of minimum wage in inflation-adjusted terms as this rate is equivalent to $12.34 today. That's $5 more than today's minimum wage of $7.25.
1968 | In 1968, the federal minimum wage increased again to $1.60 an hour. This marks the peak buying power of minimum wage in inflation-adjusted terms as this rate is equivalent to $12.34 today. That's $5 more than today's minimum wage of $7.25. (Paul Fievez/Getty Images)
1969
1969 | The minimum wage remained $1.60 in 1969 and was worth $11.82 in today's money.
1969 | The minimum wage remained $1.60 in 1969 and was worth $11.82 in today's money. (George W. Hales/Getty Images)
1970
1970 | In 1970, the $1.60 federal minimum wage was worth the equivalent of $11.13 today.
1970 | In 1970, the $1.60 federal minimum wage was worth the equivalent of $11.13 today. (Tim Graham/Getty Images)
1971
1971 | The value of the $1.60 continued to decline. In 1971, it was worth the equivalent of $10.57 today.
1971 | The value of the $1.60 continued to decline. In 1971, it was worth the equivalent of $10.57 today. (Matt Green/Getty Images)
1972
1972 | In 1972, the $1.60 federal minimum wage would be worth $10.24 today.
1972 | In 1972, the $1.60 federal minimum wage would be worth $10.24 today. (Brian Harris/Getty Images)
1973
1973 | In the final year of the $1.60 minimum wage, it's value was the equivalent to $9.88 today.
1973 | In the final year of the $1.60 minimum wage, it's value was the equivalent to $9.88 today. (-/AFP via Getty Images)
1974
1974 | As the effects of the Watergate scandal continued to ripple across the country, the federal minimum wage increased to $2.00. This bumped the value of minimum wage back up to $11.29 in today's dollars.
1974 | As the effects of the Watergate scandal continued to ripple across the country, the federal minimum wage increased to $2.00. This bumped the value of minimum wage back up to $11.29 in today's dollars. (Peter Keegan/Getty Images)
1975
1975 | In 1975, the year the Vietnam War ended, the minimum wage was bumped up by 10 cents to $2.10. Even with this increase, the value of the minimum wage still dropped from the year before to $10.60.
1975 | In 1975, the year the Vietnam War ended, the minimum wage was bumped up by 10 cents to $2.10. Even with this increase, the value of the minimum wage still dropped from the year before to $10.60. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
1976
1976 | The minimum wage was increased by another 20 cents to $2.30 in 1976. This wage is the equivalent of $10.88 today.
1976 | The minimum wage was increased by another 20 cents to $2.30 in 1976. This wage is the equivalent of $10.88 today. (Brian Alpert/Getty Images)
1977
1977 | In 1977, the federal minimum wage remained at $2.30, though it's value dropped slightly. It would be worth $10.34 today.
1977 | In 1977, the federal minimum wage remained at $2.30, though it's value dropped slightly. It would be worth $10.34 today. (Peter Keegan/Getty Images)
1978
1978 | In 1978, the federal minimum wage increased again to $2.65 for all covered, nonexempt workers. This is the equivalent of $11.15 in 2021 dollars.
1978 | In 1978, the federal minimum wage increased again to $2.65 for all covered, nonexempt workers. This is the equivalent of $11.15 in 2021 dollars. (Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
1979
1979 | Minimum wage continued to rise at the end of the decade, being set at $2.90 in 1979. This is the equivalent of $11.17 in 2021.
1979 | Minimum wage continued to rise at the end of the decade, being set at $2.90 in 1979. This is the equivalent of $11.17 in 2021. (Claudia Aires/Getty Images)
1980
1980 | The '80s were also kicked off with an increase to the federal minimum wage from $2.90 to $3.10. That's equivalent to $10.48 in 2021.
1980 | The '80s were also kicked off with an increase to the federal minimum wage from $2.90 to $3.10. That's equivalent to $10.48 in 2021. (George Freston/Getty Images)
1981
1981 | The minimum wage was bumped up again the next year from $3.10 to $3.35 an hour. Despite the increase, that would be worth just $10.13 in today's money, a decline from previous years.
1981 | The minimum wage was bumped up again the next year from $3.10 to $3.35 an hour. Despite the increase, that would be worth just $10.13 in today's money, a decline from previous years. (-/AFP via Getty Images)
1982
1982 | By 1982, the U.S. was in the midst of its worst recession since the Great Depression. That year, the $3.35 was worth only $9.34. This was the first time in almost a decade the value of minimum wage dipped below $10 an hour.
1982 | By 1982, the U.S. was in the midst of its worst recession since the Great Depression. That year, the $3.35 was worth only $9.34. This was the first time in almost a decade the value of minimum wage dipped below $10 an hour. (Keystone/Getty Images)
1983
1983 | In 1983, the year of the Cabbage Patch Kids craze, the value of the federal minimum wage of $3.35 dropped again to the equivalent of $9.01 today.
1983 | In 1983, the year of the Cabbage Patch Kids craze, the value of the federal minimum wage of $3.35 dropped again to the equivalent of $9.01 today. (Len Trievnor/Getty Images)
1984
1984 | By 1984, the $3.35 federal minimum wage was only worth the equivalent of $8.65 an hour in today's dollars.
1984 | By 1984, the $3.35 federal minimum wage was only worth the equivalent of $8.65 an hour in today's dollars. (Terry Disney/Getty Images)
1985
1985 | The value of the $3.35 federal minimum wage continued to drop, clocking in at a value of $8.35 in today's dollars by 1985.
1985 | The value of the $3.35 federal minimum wage continued to drop, clocking in at a value of $8.35 in today's dollars by 1985. (Harry Dempster/Getty Images)
1986
1986 | In 1986, $3.35 an hour was the equivalent of $8.04 today.
1986 | In 1986, $3.35 an hour was the equivalent of $8.04 today. (Keystone/Getty Images)
1987
1987 | When adjusted for inflation, the value of the $3.35 minimum wage in 1987 would be just $7.92 today.
1987 | When adjusted for inflation, the value of the $3.35 minimum wage in 1987 would be just $7.92 today. (MICHEL CLEMENT/AFP via Getty Images)
1988
1988 | By 1988, the federal minimum wage still hadn't been increased from $3.35, but it's buying power plummeted even further to the equivalent of $7.62 today. That's the lowest value for the federal minimum wage since 1955.
1988 | By 1988, the federal minimum wage still hadn't been increased from $3.35, but it's buying power plummeted even further to the equivalent of $7.62 today. That's the lowest value for the federal minimum wage since 1955. (OMAR TORRES/AFP via Getty Images)
1989
1989 | The decade of "greed is good" closed out with the federal minimum wage still stagnant at $3.35. In 2021 dollars, that's the equivalent of $7.28.
1989 | The decade of "greed is good" closed out with the federal minimum wage still stagnant at $3.35. In 2021 dollars, that's the equivalent of $7.28. (Express/Getty Images)
1991
1991 | The minimum wage increased again in 1991 to $4.25 an hour, which would be equivalent to $8.30 today.
1991 | The minimum wage increased again in 1991 to $4.25 an hour, which would be equivalent to $8.30 today. (JEAN THIERCELIN/AFP via Getty Images)
1990
1990 | In 1990, the federal minimum wage was increased again to $3.80 an hour. However, the buying power of that wage remained historically low, coming in at $7.85 in today's money.
1990 | In 1990, the federal minimum wage was increased again to $3.80 an hour. However, the buying power of that wage remained historically low, coming in at $7.85 in today's money. (Steve Eason/Getty Images)
1992
1992 | In 1992, the $4.25 federal minimum wage would be equivalent to $8.09 today.
1992 | In 1992, the $4.25 federal minimum wage would be equivalent to $8.09 today. (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)
1993
1993 | The federal minimum wage stayed at $4.25 an hour in 1993. When adjusted for inflation, that would be $7.84 in today's dollars.
1993 | The federal minimum wage stayed at $4.25 an hour in 1993. When adjusted for inflation, that would be $7.84 in today's dollars. (Getty Images/Getty Images)
1994
1994 | In 1994, the minimum wage of $4.25 would be the equivalent of $7.65 an hour today.
1994 | In 1994, the minimum wage of $4.25 would be the equivalent of $7.65 an hour today. (JOSHUA ROBERTS/AFP via Getty Images)
1995
1995 | 1995 was the final year the minimum wage stayed at $4.25 an hour. At that time, that rate was worth the equivalent of $7.44 today.
1995 | 1995 was the final year the minimum wage stayed at $4.25 an hour. At that time, that rate was worth the equivalent of $7.44 today. (PHILIPPE BUISSIN/AFP via Getty Images)
1996
1996 | In 1996, the federal minimum wage was raised 50 cents to $4.75 an hour. That would equate to $8.09 today.
1996 | In 1996, the federal minimum wage was raised 50 cents to $4.75 an hour. That would equate to $8.09 today. (PATRICK KOVARIK/AFP via Getty Images)
1997
1997 | In 1997, the federal minimum wage was increased again after a little less than a year to $5.15, which is worth $8.51 in 2021 dollars. After this increase, the minimum wage would remain unchanged for the next decade.
1997 | In 1997, the federal minimum wage was increased again after a little less than a year to $5.15, which is worth $8.51 in 2021 dollars. After this increase, the minimum wage would remain unchanged for the next decade. (KEMAL JUFRI/AFP via Getty Images)
1998
1998 | In 1998, the $5.15 federal minimum wage was worth the equivalent of $8.38 today.
1998 | In 1998, the $5.15 federal minimum wage was worth the equivalent of $8.38 today. (MIKE NELSON/AFP via Getty Images)
1999
1999 | The 1999 minimum wage of $5.15 when adjusted for inflation would be $8.24 in 2021.
1999 | The 1999 minimum wage of $5.15 when adjusted for inflation would be $8.24 in 2021. (HENNY RAY ABRAMS/AFP via Getty Images)
2000
2000 | At the end of the millennium, the minimum wage of $5.15 an hour was worth the equivalent of $8.02 today.
2000 | At the end of the millennium, the minimum wage of $5.15 an hour was worth the equivalent of $8.02 today. (Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
2001
2001 | Before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour was worth $7.74 today. Afterward, it was worth the equivalent of $7.62.
2001 | Before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour was worth $7.74 today. Afterward, it was worth the equivalent of $7.62. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
2002
2002 | In 2002, the value of the $5.15 an hour minimum wage was $7.65 in today's dollars.
2002 | In 2002, the value of the $5.15 an hour minimum wage was $7.65 in today's dollars. (David Friedman/Getty Images)
2003
2003 | The buying power of the minimum wage continued to decrease, dropping to the equivalent of $7.45 in 2021.
2003 | The buying power of the minimum wage continued to decrease, dropping to the equivalent of $7.45 in 2021. (Tim Boyle/Getty Images)
2004
2004 | By 2004, the federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour was worth the equivalent of $7.31 today.
2004 | By 2004, the federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour was worth the equivalent of $7.31 today. (Tim Boyle/Getty Images)
2005
2005 | When adjusted for inflation, $5.15 an hour in 2005 would equal just $7.10 today.
2005 | When adjusted for inflation, $5.15 an hour in 2005 would equal just $7.10 today. (Chris Hondros/Getty Images)
2006
2006 | In the final year the federal minimum wage remained $5.15 an hour, it was equivalent to a mere $6.83 in today's money.
2006 | In the final year the federal minimum wage remained $5.15 an hour, it was equivalent to a mere $6.83 in today's money. (David Silverman/Getty Images)
2007
2007 | In 2007, the federal minimum wage was increased to $5.85 an hour for all covered, nonexempt workers. This is the equivalent of $7.60 in today's money.
2007 | In 2007, the federal minimum wage was increased to $5.85 an hour for all covered, nonexempt workers. This is the equivalent of $7.60 in today's money. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
2008
2008 | In 2008, ahead of the election of President Barack Obama, the minimum wage was increased again to $6.55. That's the equivalent of $8.16 in 2021 dollars.
2008 | In 2008, ahead of the election of President Barack Obama, the minimum wage was increased again to $6.55. That's the equivalent of $8.16 in 2021 dollars. (Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)
2009
2009 | In 2009, the minimum wage increased again to $7.25, where it has remained ever since. At the time, that was equivalent to $9.03.
2009 | In 2009, the minimum wage increased again to $7.25, where it has remained ever since. At the time, that was equivalent to $9.03. (LEON NEAL/AFP via Getty Images)
Today
TODAY | The federal minimum wage has remained at $7.25 an hour for more than 11 years, making it the longest drought between increases. According to the 2021 guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services, the federal poverty level or a family of two is $16,500. However, at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, working 40 hours per week and 52 weeks per year equals an annual income of just $15,080. So far in 2021, President Joe Biden has continued to support legislation that would gradually increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025.
TODAY | The federal minimum wage has remained at $7.25 an hour for more than 11 years, making it the longest drought between increases. According to the 2021 guidelines from the Department of Health and Human Services, the federal poverty level or a family of two is $16,500. However, at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, working 40 hours per week and 52 weeks per year equals an annual income of just $15,080. So far in 2021, President Joe Biden has continued to support legislation that would gradually increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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