Minimum Wage Data Comes to Wolfram|Alpha
Wolfram|Alpha recently added information about the minimum wage in U.S. states (from 1967 through today) based on data from the U.S. Department of Labor. This means you can ask Wolfram|Alpha about simple historical facts, like the U.S. minimum wage in 1980, or perform simple analyses, like comparing the current minimum wage in Ohio and Alaska.
For questions about U.S. or state minimum wages, Wolfram|Alpha generates a “Time conversions” pod that automatically computes an equivalent wage over various units of absolute and working time. (Note that you can also enter any arbitrary wage into Wolfram|Alpha—“$500 per week”, for example—to prompt the same computation.)
Wolfram|Alpha also computes an inflation-adjusted result for all minimum-wage queries, adjusting historical data to current U.S. dollars using the Consumer Price Index. So you can ask directly for information like the 1979 U.S. minimum wage adjusted for inflation, and discover that it was equivalent to more than $9 per hour in current dollars.
(Note that many states have legislated minimum wage rates that are lower than the federal minimum wage. Where applicable, Wolfram|Alpha includes brief footnotes describing these lower rates and the specific employment situations they apply to. The specific Wolfram|Alpha result, however, only applies to jobs covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act, so the effective minimum wage provided for a particular state will never be lower than the federal wage.)
And, as always, you can mash up this data with other information in Wolfram|Alpha. Perform simple mathematical operations using a particular minimum wage, such as “CA minimum wage * 27 hours”, or try comparing a state minimum wage with the hourly wage for a specific occupation by querying “IL minimum wage vs. IL waiters hourly wage”. Or you can get a little more creative, and try to figure out how long someone would have to work a minimum-wage job in order to pay off his or her electricity bill:
So go ahead and explore this data yourself, and if you stumble upon any fun or interesting facts, tweet them to @WolframFunFacts.