Jan. 1 will ring in a new year and higher minimum wages for workers in 13 states, similar to the first day of 2015, when 20 states and the District of Columbia saw minimum wage increases, according to Quartz.
The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. The highest state minimum is $9.32. But that will change Thursday when California and Massachusetts raise their wages from $9 to $10 per hour.
Some cities will increase their minimum wages even higher. Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco will all start paying more than $10 as part of a gradual increase to $15 per hour being implemented over the next several years. In Washington, D.C., Maryland and Minnesota, the minimum wage will increase later in 2016.
Economists argue about the pros and cons of a higher minimum wage. Some say it can reduce poverty and inequality, but others says it impacts less than 5 percent of the workforce and pushing the minimum too high can discourage hiring.
According to Fortune, Arizona, Florida, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington won’t be seeing wage increases in 2016. These eight states that set their minimum wages by the current cost of living won’t be increasing wages because of low inflation rates.
According to a poll from Hart Research Associates, 63 percent of Americans support raising the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2020. Increasing the minimum wage has traction even among some conservative voters. Another poll found that most conservative swing-state voters supported a $15 minimum wage.
When adjusted for inflation, the federal minimum wage had its greatest purchasing power almost 50 years ago when it reached today's equivalent of $9.54 in 1968.
Jared Pincin, an economics professor at The King’s College, told the Deseret News earlier this year that the minimum wage debate misrepresents the group of Americans that it affects most.
“The goal of the minimum wage is always too painted as trying to help the least among us. And that’s a great goal,” he said. “But the minimum wage only affects around 4 percent of U.S. workers (paid by the hour), and almost a quarter of them are teenagers.”
Indeed, a report from the Pew Research Center last year found minimum wage earners are disproportionately young, mostly white and mostly part-time workers. In light of this research, some advocates of minimum wage increases have shifted their focus away from people earning $7.25 to a more general population of low-wage workers who could be indirectly affected by a change in the minimum wage.
Paul Sonn, the legal co-director of the National Employment Law Project, said to focus only on those earning $7.25 misses the true impact of the current federal minimum wage.
"Because the current minimum wage is so very low, very few workers earn it, and that group is disproportionately young," he said. "The correct focus is instead on the much larger and older group of workers who would receive a raise if the minimum wage were raised to a more adequate level."