Pedagogy in Action > Library > Interdisciplinary Approaches to Teaching > To Raise or Not to Raise the Minimum Wage

To Raise or Not to Raise the Minimum Wage

This page authored by Karen L. Hornsby, North Carolina A&T State University
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This material was originally created for Starting Point: Teaching Economics
and is replicated here as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service.

Summary

In this interactive exercise, students explore the normative and economic issues that arise from minimum wage increases. Students will encounter arguments for and against raising the minimum wage and will make a choice whether not to support an increase. The choices made will then yield results, which may lead to further problems requiring additional decisions. The exercise is designed to engage students in real-world decision-making processes. Students write an essay outlining their initial preconceptions about minimum wage increases, reflectively analyze their exercise decisions, and then articulate their current, more informed views on the issue.

Learning Goals

The primary concepts learned through this exercise are unintended consequences, rights theories, and distributive justice.

Context for Use

The structure of this activity is flexible to meet classroom needs. The activity could be done fully within the classroom with students collectively working through the exercise. Or it could be used as a group activity where students debate potential options prior to working through the interactive exercise. Or students could complete the entire activity prior to class and talk about their insights in a written essay or classroom discussion.

Description and Teaching Materials

Part 1: Distributive Justice

The instructor should have a short Socratic discussion about distributive justice prior to assigning exercise. Possible inquiry questions include:

  1. Do you think advantages of birth are fair? In other words, is it fair that if you happen to be born in Ethiopia, that you will most likely spend all of your life in food distribution lines just to stay alive?
  2. Do people who are born into geographical and economic advantage have an obligation to assist those less fortunate.
  3. If people work hard for 40 to 50 hours a week, should they be able to live off of their wages?

After completing the discussion, have students write out their initial idea about whether a living minimum wage is a good idea.


Part 2: Case Application

After initial views on minimum wage policies have been captured, have students work through the minimum wage digital interactive exercise making notes of their decisions and consequences.

Finally have students compose a 2-3 page essay recording their initial preconceptions about minimum wage increases, reflectively analyze their interactive exercise decisions, and then articulate their current, more informed views on the issue.

Teaching Notes and Tips

Instructors could have students actually calculate a minimum wage worker's take-home pay would be for a 40 hour work week prior to recording their initial perceptions about a living minimum wage.

Instructors might also have students read a short excerpt from A Theory of Justice describing "the veil of ignorance" and the negotiation process for the forming a just state.

Assessment

A grading rubric is used to assess students' understanding and demonstrated learning in the written essay.

References and Resources

A digital interactive exercise on the issue of advertising ethics is very insightful.

Instructors can assign a supplemental reading of A Theory of Justice by John Rawls. The suggested excerpt for this assignment is pages 11-17.

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