Low wage workers have far more education than they did in in 1968, but they make far less

by Lawrence Mishel

The minimum wage is 23 percent less than its peak inflation-adjusted value in 1968. This is despite productivity (how much output can be produced in an average hour of work in the economy) more than doubling in that time period. The low-wage workforce has surely contributed to this rise in economy-wide productivity, since as a group they have far more education now than they did then. For the workforce overall, 37 percent in 1968 had not completed high school (or received a GED), which was true for only 9 percent in 2012 (the latest year with comparable data). We can drill down to examine low-wage workers, which we are defining for this analysis as those earning in the bottom fifth of the wage distribution.