What’s The Deal With The Minimum Wage?

Background and Pedagogical Rationale:  This assignment emphasizes precise thinking and language.  Students are often insensitive to or unaware of the distinction often made between “nominal” and “real” values: For instance, the distinction between “nominal” and “real” Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or, likewise, between “nominal” and “real” wages.

In order to receive a good grade on this assignment, students need to be sensitive to –and be able to explain—long run changes in the “nominal” and “real” value of the minimum wage. It is imperative that the student is able to describe/explain what is “going on” with changes in the minimum wage.

As a simple exercise in quantitative writing, the emphasis is tightly focused on tracking and explaining changes in data or a specific variable.


Practicing and mastering the skill of quantitative writing

Emphasizing and describing long run changes in an economic variable

Interpreting graphical and/or tabular data

Practice in data gathering related to a specific economic issue


You are tasked with the responsibility of writing a brief “note” on trends in the minimum wages.  Overall, you are expected to describe what’s going on with the minimum wage in the United States: Has it increased? Has it increased during some time periods but decreased in others? What’s the demographic profile of persons earning the minimum wage in the United States? What explains the difference between trends in the nominal and real value of the minimum wage? Your “note” must include a graph that displays and compares trends in the nominal and real value of the minimum wage. Your “note” need not be longer than 2 pages but should certainly be no shorter than one page.


Grammar and style

Usage of credible source for data

Inclusion of a graph

Accurate description of what “story” is being told by graph

References relevant chapter in text