Lesson Plan: Should the Federal Minimum Wage Be Raised?

Who Earns Minimum Wage?

Economic Policy Institute’s Ross Eisenbrey and Cato Institute’s Daniel Mitchell talked about the population of people who earn the minimum wage at work.


In 2009 the federal minimum wage was raised to $7.25 (roughly $15,000 annually) by Congress. Some workers receiving minimum wage would like it to be raised to $15 dollars an hour. Opponents of raising the minimum wage are concerned it will result in employee layoffs and increased costs to consumers to offset paying for increased wages. A common fear among employers is that if the federal minimum wage is raised they will be forced to layoff and automate the jobs. In this lesson, students will look at various viewpoints on this issue and determine a solution for themselves.


  • STEP 1:

    Take a Stand Activity:

    Post one sign that says “YES/AGREE” on one side of the room, one sign in the middle of the room that says MAYBE, and one sign that says “NO/DISAGREE” on the opposite side of the room before students enter the classroom.

    Post the following question on your board:

    “Should the federal minimum wage be raised?”

    Ask students to stand next to the sign with which they agree and have several students from different sides explain their positions.

  • STEP 2:

    As a class, view the following video clips to provide background information on the topic and use the accompanying questions to guide class discussion. Students may use the handout below to take notes.

    HANDOUT: Should the Minimum Wage Be Raised? (Google Doc)

  • VIDEO CLIP 1: Who Earns Minimum Wage?

    Economic Policy Institute’s Ross Eisenbrey and Cato Institute’s Daniel Mitchell talked about the population of people who earn the minimum wage at work. (2:05)

    1. Who earns minimum wage?

    2. Compare the perspectives of Daniel Mitchell and Ross Eisenbrey regarding the issue of raising the minimum wage.
  • VIDEO CLIP 2: The Minimum Wage and Inflation

    Ginger Gibson discussed arguments for and against raising the minimum wage including inflation and employment levels. (2:06)

    1. What is the argument for those who support raising the minimum wage? Why do proponents want to tie the rate to inflation?

    2. What do opponents of raising the minimum wage argue?

    3. Describe the possible effects that raising the minimum wage could have on employment levels and working hours.
  • STEP 3:

    Ask students to view the videos below. This can be done as an individual or jigsaw activity. Students can discuss the perspective(s) presented in their video with their group and be prepared to explain the topic during class discussion.

  • VIDEO CLIP 3: Raising the Minimum Wage

    David Cooper and Veronique de Rugy debated issues related to raising the minimum wage. (9:08)

    1. Explain how the vast majority of workers would benefit from an increase in the minimum wage as David Cooper describes. How would this increase impact the displacement of workers?

    2. How does Veronique de Rugy view the issue of displacement among workers with an increase in the minimum wage?

    3. What argument does David Cooper present in support of increasing the minimum wage? Explain his perspective on the Seattle study on the effect of raising the minimum wage, unemployment and businesses.

    4. How does Veronique de Rugy view the results of the Seattle study in terms of the larger debate of raising the minimum wage?

    5. Explain the statistics from the 2016 data on workers, the federal minimum wage and the effect of tips and fringe benefits.
  • VIDEO CLIP 4: Minimum Wage, Poverty and Policy Issues

    Michael Farren, Research Fellow, George Mason University, talked about the debate over raising the minimum wage and his belief that increasing it could have unintended consequences for workers. (6:43)

    1. Explain the argument regarding earning minimum wage and a living wage as Michael Farren describes.

    2. Describe some of the policy tools that are currently in place to address low income workers.

    3. Explain Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards' position on the issue of increasing the minimum wage. What was Michael Farren's response?

    4. According to Michael Farren, what is the purpose of the minimum wage?

    5. Based on the study that was done by The University of Washington, what effect has raising the minimum wage had on workers as is referenced by Michael Farren?
  • VIDEO CLIP 5: Minimum Wage Debate

    Economic Policy Institute Economist Ben Zipper discusses the impact of minimum wage laws and the debate over whether to raise the wage at the federal, state, and local level. (5:50)

    1. Describe the percentage of Americans who earned minimum wage as Ben Zipper explains.

    2. What are preemption laws and how have they impacted St. Louis, Missouri?

    3. What action did Illinois Gov. Rauner take regarding the issue of raising the minimum wage in his state?

    4. Explain Ben Zipper's interpretation of The University of Washington's study on the minimum wage in Seattle.
  • STEP 4:

    Culminating Activities:

    Ask students to consider the information in the videos and from class discussion and complete one of the following activities:

    1. Using Snapchat, create a Snap explaining what you have learned about raising the federal minimum wage. Include statistics detailing who earns this wage. You can save it or take a screenshot to share with your group/class.

    2. Respond to the question that was asked at the beginning of class.

      “Should the federal minimum wage be raised?”

      Students should write their responses citing supporting details from the videos. Have students volunteer their positions.

  • Extension Activity:

    Ask students to analyze the data on the following website and compare the federal minimum wage in each state with their own state's wage:

    United States Minimum Wage Calculator 2018

Additional Resource


  • Artificial
  • Compensation
  • Cost Of Living
  • Displaced
  • Earned Income Tax Credit
  • Federalism
  • Head Of Household
  • Inflation
  • Labor Market
  • Negative Income Tax
  • Preemption Law
  • Productivity
  • Unemployment Wages
  • Veto
  • Wage


Economics & Financial LiteracyFederalism and State Issues


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