Kathleen A. Ragon '13, Gettysburg College

Document Type

Student Research Paper

Date of Creation





The minimum wage is a legally mandated relationship between money and time. Traditionally, studies of the minimum wage have focused on the money side of this relationship (e.g. how much do minimum wage workers earn) while ignoring its temporal aspects (e.g. how long someone has to work to receive a particular income). This is a significant oversight because it overlooks the temporal investments that minimum wage workers must make in order to achieve a specific sum of money (e.g. there is a significant temporal difference if a minimum wage worker can achieve an income above a poverty threshold by working part-time, full-time, or more than full-time). To address this oversight, we calculate the number of hours individuals and families earning the minimum wage would have to work in order to achieve the poverty-level income in the 20 European Union countries with national statutory minimum wages. Our findings show two things. One is that there are significant differences between how long minimum wage workers must work in order to achieve these income thresholds. The other is that while in some countries this amount is relatively stable over time, in others it can vary considerably.