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OP-ED: Did Our Minimum Wage “Rise”? Washington State Cities Dominates Top 3 Positions with Highest Minimum Wage in the Country

Washington has once again been determined as the state with the highest minimum wage in 2024, with a wage rate of $16.28 per hour, maintaining its position for three consecutive years since 2021. Over the years, its hourly wage has increased steadily on the 1st of Jan., beginning from $1.15 in 1961 and progressing to its current level.

Certain cities in states like Washington and California are granted the power to set their minimum wage rates according to their economic situations. With this policy in effect, some local jurisdictions in cities like Seattle, SeaTac, and Tukwila have set their minimum wage above the state minimum. These cities have minimum wages of $19.97, $19.71, and $20.29, respectively, securing the top three positions in the ranking of cities with the highest minimum.

Nobody hates money, and no one is against earning more money. Therefore, whenever wages rise, there is always excitement. However, what if we dive deeper into the reasons behind minimum wage increases and their impact?

Let’s be straightforward: Why did the federal, state, and local governments implement the minimum wage? What is their purpose in setting it? The minimum wage ensures that employed individuals have enough income to sustain themselves, afford shelter, and purchase food. However, inflation diminishes the value of the money over time, leading to price increases for goods and products in the market.

On a micro level, if you reside in Seattle, you might believe that the $1.28 wage increase per hour from $18.69 to $19.97 is massive. Simultaneously, the price of Dick’s Deluxe Burger in Capitol Hill has now climbed from $4.85 on Oct. 2022 to $5.30, signifying a $0.45 growth. While some may sense the wage increase as nearly three times higher than the price shift of the burger, calculations of increase and decrease are entirely different in the economic world.

In microeconomics, we generally measure changes in portion sizes in percentages. From another perspective, the hourly minimum wage has only increased by 6.8%, whereas the burger price has surged by 9.3%. It implies that people can purchase fewer burgers with higher salaries, reducing purchasing power.

Food is inelastic in economics and a necessity for human survival. Without food, what will be waiting for people is death. In other words, no matter how ridiculous the prices of foods become, people will still purchase them to live.

On a macro level, the City of Seattle government should reconsider its formula (Part D, 1. d)) for calculating inflation rates and minimum wage adjustments, conducting immediate investigations as necessary. They must understand that when people cannot afford necessities like food and water to survive, crime rates, such as burglary and theft, will inevitably rise, adversely impacting public safety. This, in turn, would lead to a significant decline in Seattle’s Gross National Happiness Index (GNH) and could affect the city’s prospects.

What is the target of introducing a minimum wage law? It is initially put into practice to guarantee we, the people, will make a living by doing our work. While people are undoubtedly being paid more, it is not rigorous to declare people are having a rise in their minimum wage. It needs to be further examined if people are more satisfied with their quality of life this year.

To conclude, “Did the minimum wage in Seattle truly rise when people’s ability to afford goods has been reduced?” I would argue that it has declined rather than risen, as a rise in the minimum wage has decreased people’s affordability of necessities. 

Although Seattle, SeaTac, and Tukwila have the highest minimum wage in the country, the prices of goods here are also higher than in other states. The ranking could mislead individuals into believing that residents here enjoy the highest quality of life. However, it is essential to recognize that despite earning lower wages, people in other cities might possess greater purchasing power due to more affordable prices in those areas.


Terry Feng.

Terry Feng, the Social Media Manager at the Seattle Collegian, is also an international student from Hong Kong. He is now pursuing a degree in Business and is enthusiastic about Music. Following the wave of the world and exploring new things is where his excitement comes from.

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