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Minimum Wage Was Once Enough To Keep A Family Of 3 Out Of Poverty

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NEW YORK, NY - JULY 24: Jaden Painegua (2) rests on his mother's shoulder at the West Side Campaign Against Hunger food bank on July 24, 2013 in New York City. The food bank assists thousands of qualifying New York residents in providing a monthly allotment of food. In an anticipated speech today in Illinois, President Obama tried to re-focus the nations attention back onto the economy and the growing inequality between the rich and the rest of America. As of May 2013 the unemployment rate in Am | Spencer Platt via Getty Images

Amid protests across the country over retail and service jobs that pay little better than the minimum wage, it's easy to forget that this income benchmark once meant something slightly different. In the past, a minimum-wage job was actually one that could keep a single parent out of poverty.

Since the 1980s, the federal minimum wage has kept pace with neither inflation, nor the rise of the average worker's paycheck. That means that while a federal minimum wage in 1968 could have lifted a family of three above the poverty line, now it can't even do that for a parent with one child, working full-time, 40 hours a week and 52 weeks a year (yes, this calculation assumes that the parent takes no time off).

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