March 27, 2023

When I first moved to California, I was so excited minimum wage was $11 an hour. Now that it has risen to $12 an hour, this state’s minimum wage is now nearly $5 more than the federal minimum wage of only $7.25 per hour.

In April 2016, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a $15-an-hour minimum wage law, which will gradually raise the minimum wage until 2023 for the state of California.

At first glance, one may think that is amazing. Surely, everyone should move to California — especially once minimum wage peaks in 2023. While some states have minimum wages higher than the federal rate, California’s plan exceeds others.

With the cost of living in California already higher than average for the United States, low-income and young adult residents may be excited for their pay raises. However, raising the standard to $15 an hour may ruin morale for many other occupations.

For example, new trade workers making anywhere from $12-20 an hour to begin with may feel their work is undervalued when a standard cashier makes $15 an hour. There are many single parents who may not have college degrees but have worked their way up to jobs that pay $15 an hour or more. However, they may have to move out of the state if the cost of living inflates even more once high schoolers are able to earn similar paychecks.

Raising the minimum wage standard so significantly either means raising pay rates across all jobs or undervaluing people who have worked hard to earn their positions while overvaluing unskilled labor.

As someone who had three different jobs in high school, I can say I never deserved $15 an hour for the work I did. In fact, there are entry-level job postings for college graduates that pay similar rates as California’s soon-to-be minimum wage.

Why should anyone get a college degree in California if they can get any job and earn a similar amount of money? The high minimum wage may increase competition for jobs and perhaps make it difficult to find available full-time positions.

Overall, the country has a standard federal minimum wage. According to Paycor, the only states whose minimum wage currently exceeds $10 an hour are Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington. Though inflation may be inevitable regardless, California is accelerating the process more than other states.

When the state sets its standard so much higher than the majority of the country, it creates yet another major cultural difference between itself and other states.

Though people have different reasons for residing in California, such as family, weather or the ocean, this change to the economy may either drive people in or out of the state.

The long-term effects are somewhat unpredictable, but it is clear the change will affect everyone — and not necessarily in a good way.

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