Did you know that there was a time in our country, after the Civil War, when white unemployment was higher than black unemployment? It seems almost unfathomable now, but that was the case in the early decades of the 20th Century. This was intentionally changed after Congress enacted the first federal minimum wage law: the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931.
As most of us remember from history class, the 1930s saw a plethora of public works projects introduced to combat the unemployment associated with the Great Depression. (Whether or not this worked is a topic for another day.) But during that time, many impoverished blacks left sharecropping to come north in search of such jobs. The Davis-Bacon Act was created specifically and explicitly to prevent blacks from “taking” these jobs from local white workers.
The first federal minimum wage laws were created with the specific intent to prevent blacks from breaking into the labor market and obtaining better opportunities for themselves. New raises in the minimum wage may not carry the same intent, but they will undoubtedly have the same effect. Instead of widening the gulf between the employed and the unemployed, we need a growing economy where employers compete for workers. Only then will we see more jobs and higher wages at the same time.