Minimum wages and labor markets vary tremendously across the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The ratio of a state’s minimum wage to its median wage measures the strength of its minimum wage, after accounting for each state’s distribution of wages. As our interactive graphic below demonstrates, most states had much stronger minimum wages more than 30 years ago than they do today.
The average minimum-to-median wage ratio for the United States was 51 percent in 1979, the first year of data included in our interactive. At that time, 29 states had ratios exceeding this mark, but by 2013 the minimum-to-median wage ratios were below 51 percent for all states and the District of Columbia. Over the past 34 years, the overall minimum-to-median wage ratio in the United States fell to 39 percent.
The minimum-to-median wage ratio is a measure of how much a given minimum wage will affect a specific state’s labor market. Generally, the higher a state’s minimum-to-median wage ratio, the more workers will be affected by an increase in the minimum wage.
The state-level minimum-to-median wage ratio is the ratio of the average of the state minimum wage to the state’s median wage in that year. The median wage is the median hourly wage in the Outgoing Rotation Group of the Current Population Survey of earners who work at least 35 hours per week and who are not self-employed. The national minimum-to-median wage ratio is the population-weighted mean of state minimum wages divided by the median national wage.