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Virginia Lawmakers Should Empower Workers to Earn More Instead of Mandating Wage Hikes

Minimum wage hikes seem to be all the rage. By 2025, 25 states will mandate minimum wages of at least $12 per hour; 6 states will enforce at least a $15 hourly wage. This year alone, 25 states are scheduled to raise their minimum wages, leaving just 20 states pegged to the federal minimum hourly wage of $7.25.

Virginia is on the precipice of joining the ranks of wage-hikers. House Bill 1 (HB1), which passed the House of Delegates on February 2, schedules a $1.50 per hour increase to Virginia’s minimum wage to $13.50 in 2025 and $15 by 2026.

Despite advocates’ rhetoric in favor of raising Virginia’s minimum wage, the true benefits of minimum wage hikes are questionable. Robust economic literature casts doubt upon historical wage hikes and instead underscores the importance of policies that address structural factors related to earnings. Moreover, while wage hikes are sold as expansive economic reforms, the directly affected population is quite small. Across the U.S., only 1.6 million Americans — just 1.9 percent of all hourly workers — earn at or below the federal minimum wage. Thus, before Virginia joins the parade of state-level wage-raisers, lawmakers ought to assess the implications of a wage hike and consider different approaches to enhance earnings in Virginia.

Read the full piece in the DC Journal »