Over the past several years, many states have made the decision to raise their own minimum wages above and beyond what is mandated by the federal government. By and large, despite significant pushback from business groups, these efforts have proven extremely popular with the majority of Americans. In fact, people in every state across the U.S. say that, on average, they would prefer their minimum wage to be at least somewhat higher than what it is currently.
A study titled "Responsiveness without Representation: Evidence from Minimum Wage Laws in U.S. States" - published recently in the American Journal of Political Science - found that on average, people preferred that their states' minimum wages would rise by roughly $2 per hour. However, there was often a far bigger disparity for states where lawmakers had not already voted to raise their minimums above the federal level.
There was not a single state where the average person would have preferred the state's minimum wage was lower, and only a small handful where the gap was even remotely close, the research showed.
"[The study found] that while minimum wages respond to corresponding preferences across states, policy outcomes are more conservative than preferences in each state, with the average policy bias amounting to about $2," the authors of the report wrote in its abstract. "We also show that policy bias is substantially smaller in states with access to direct democratic institutions."
How they're dealing with it
Because so many lawmakers are dragging their feet on raising minimum wages to levels the general public seems to prefer, their intransigence has often resulted in people taking their own initiative, according to CityLab. That means collecting enough signatures to introduce ballot measures that raise the minimum wage by popular vote. This is often happening regardless of which party controls the state's legislature, highlighting just how much more progressive the general public seems to be than their elected representatives.
Two states raised minimum wages via ballot measure in November, following similar efforts in other states as well, the report said. Meanwhile, candidates for many different offices who have openly supported at least some minimum wage increases are being elected with greater frequency these days.
"What these initiatives do is that they provide a way for people to influence policy in places that they're out of power," Scott LaCombe, a PhD student at University of Iowa writing a dissertation on such efforts, told the site. "Ballot initiatives are a way to hold the state in line with public opinion."
Out in front
Meanwhile, because many states have already voted to raise the minimum wage slowly over time - and then tie that minimum to the cost of living - millions of Americans may be gearing up for at least some increase in pay on Jan. 1, 2019, according to the Palm Springs Desert Sun. Some may see their hourly pay rise by a few cents, while others will see an increase of a dollar or more.
When minimum wages are on the rise, and especially because consumers prefer workers be paid more in general, it's important for companies to make sure their salary and benefits offerings go above and beyond local requirements.