Hypocrisy at the New York Times

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Nominal and Real Minimum Wage Hypocrisy at the New York Times

Over the past few years, the editors at the New York Times have, on numerous occasions, supported increasing the minimum wage. So I was surprised by today’s editorial that apparently ignores a group being paid well below any minimum wage in U.S. history. AmeriCorps volunteers (“members” in Times parlance) are paid $5,645 per year. With about 2,000 work hours in a year, the implied wage is $2.8225 per hour. This is yet another example of hypocrisy at the New York Times.

But that’s the nominal minimum wage. We need to correct for inflation. Luckily (for me) I compiled that data for another project. Here’s the short version.

The real minimum wage paid to AmeriCorps workers is $1.21. The lowest real minimum wage in the history of the U.S. minimum wage was $1.70 — in 1944. (As always, my data and methods are transparent. Click here for the Excel workbook.)

For the record, the above graph shows the real minimum wage from 1938 to the present. I’ve omitted data for some years in which the nominal minimum wage did not change. I did add the data from 1939 through 1944 to my original dataset, correcting one error in that process.

So when will the Times editors come clean and admit that they are being hypocritical about the minimum wage? I’m not holding my breath and you probably shouldn’t either.

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About Tony Lima

Retired after teaching economics at California State Univ., East Bay (Hayward, CA). Ph.D., economics, Stanford. Also taught MBA finance at the California University of Management and Technology. Occasionally take on a consulting project if it's interesting. Other interests include wine and technology.