To Raise or Not to Raise the Minimum Wage
and is replicated here as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service.
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.
Context for Use
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:
- 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?
- Do people who are born into geographical and economic advantage have an obligation to assist those less fortunate.
- 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 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.
References and Resources
Instructors can assign a supplemental reading of A Theory of Justice by John Rawls. The suggested excerpt for this assignment is pages 11-17.