Young people are pushing to raise minimum wage

While the federal minimum wage has remained stagnant at $7.25 an hour since 2009, many retailers — like Walmart and Home Depot — pay higher wages.
A person shops inside a Home Depot store.
  • Gen Z and millennials are driving the push to raise the minimum wage. 
  • According to a new NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll, 71% in the demographics said raising the minimum wage was a good idea. 
  • Support was lowest among the oldest Greatest Generation, with just 56% believing a hike is a good idea.  

Younger consumers are driving the ongoing push to raise the federal minimum wage in the U.S., according to a new NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll

Overall, 64% of the Americans surveyed said they believed a national hourly minimum wage of $15 was a good idea — up 10% from the 54% who thought it was a good idea in 2019. The idea is overwhelmingly supported by Democrats, with 86% supporting a $15 minimum wage. The majority of Republicans (60%) oppose it, however, support among the party increased to 36% this year from 27% in 2019.

Support for raising the minimum wage is highest among Gen Z and millennials. Among the combined demographics, 71% said raising the minimum wage was a good idea, while 29% said it was not. Other demographics were more split — 60% of Gen X support raising the wage, 62% of baby boomers think raising it is a good idea and 56% of the Greatest Generation support raising it.

While the federal minimum wage has stayed stagnant for more than a decade, even amid economic changes like record inflation last year, numerous retailers have hiked their minimum wage beyond what’s required by law:

  • Home Depot in its fourth-quarter earnings report said it would invest $1 billion annually in raising the minimum wage for its hourly employees, bringing its starting salary to $15 an hour. The change went into effect earlier this month. Competitor Lowe’s last year said it would pay $55 million in bonuses to hourly employees to offset inflation. 
  • Walmart earlier this year said it would raise its average hourly wage to $14 per hour by March. The increase will bring the average associate pay to $17.50, CEO John Furner said in a note to employees.
  • Target in 2022 raised wages for hourly employees, Retail Leader reported. The retailer enacted a starting range, paying employees between $15 and $24 an hour. It came after it made the increase to $15 in 2017. 
  • Kroger, the largest supermarket operator in the U.S., in 2021 said it would invest $350 million to bring its average hourly pay to $16 an hour.  
  • CVS Health last year raised the minimum hourly wage for employees to $15 an hour. The pharmacy chain at the time said 65% of employees were already earning more than that wage.
  • Ikea raised its minimum wage to $16 an hour in 2021, with some roles in certain locations starting at $17 or $18 an hour. The increase brought the average hourly wage for the furniture retailer to $20.

States have also raised their minimum wages. As Elizabeth Lafontaine, chief analyst for Retail Leader Pro, noted in January’s “Inside Retail: State of the Industry Quarterly Report,” Nevada voted to increase the minimum wage to $12 beginning in 2024, while 26 states will increase their wages this year.

“From an economic sentiment perspective, this increase in wages and earnings for consumers has a positive impact on their ability and desire to spend on both essential and non-essential retail categories and bolsters the discretionary income of many,” she said.