By Jeff Gillis & Mike Simpson

Since 2009, the federal minimum wage across America has been an underwhelming $7.25 an hour, and many people across the country are fed up with it. In recent history, the fight for higher wages has picked up steam, and workers all over the country have protested in the fight for a more stable income. Especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many workers have been labeled as “essential” but don’t have paid sick leave or health insurance plans provided by their employers, leaving many stuck in uncomfortable and unfavorable situations.

We’ve surveyed 1,059 Americans to get their take on the matter: How many are in favor of raising the federal minimum wage, and do certain occupations deserve higher paychecks than others? We also assess respondents’ beliefs about what strategies a business should focus on and the necessary skill sets for employees to thrive in their positions.

What Constitutes a Full Work Week?

Across the surveyed generations, the general consensus was that a workweek between 30 and 40 hours would count as full-time employment. Almost no respondents voted for the 50 hours or more option, and for good reason – overworking often leads to mental and physical health problems and can have negative effects on your personal life and general productivity.


The respondents were then asked whether they felt the federal minimum wage should be increased. Half of them were asked in terms of hourly wages, and half were asked in terms of annual earnings. Sixty percent were in favor of raising the hourly wage from $7.25 to $15 per hour, and 65% approved a jump in annual earnings from $15,000 to $31,000. Overall, Gen Zers were the most in favor of the wage increases with a 74% approval rate.


Using various demographic variables, we can further break down the support for the movement for higher wages. For example, baby boomer support for a pay increase was higher in terms of annual salary compared to hourly wages. The same can be said for respondents who earned over $200,000 a year – they were much more on board with the idea of an annual salary increase than an hourly one. Generally, among respondents with varying household incomes, this was a consistent theme. Regarding gender, women were slightly more likely to get behind the wage raise than men, but the majority of both were in support of it (65% and 60%, respectively).

Business Strategies

Next, we’ll assess the opinions on minimum wage increases and business strategies by political affiliation. Democrats supported both an hourly and annual wage increase much more than Republicans and independents. Regardless of party, though, there was less opposition when asked about annual earnings versus hourly wages.


While Republicans and independents were more likely to think that businesses should focus on profits, half of the Democrats surveyed believed that businesses should direct their attention to solving social issues. A similar trend emerged when assessing business strategies by political ideologies: Conservative-minded people leaned toward a profit-based approach, and liberals stood by the importance of businesses tackling social issues. Independents and those with moderate political ideologies were most likely to vie for a balance between the two.

Next, we used demographic variables to expand on respondents’ opinions on this matter. First of all, younger generations were more likely to feel that businesses should focus on social issues. A survey of 1,000 Gen Zers demonstrated some key findings about their stance on social activism. On the topic of business practices, 77% of teens say they would be more likely to purchase products from companies that work to solve social issues. Secondly, men were more likely than women to think businesses should focus more on profit, and the wealthier people were, the more they agreed with this as well.

Hourly Versus Annual

Almost 30% of respondents agreed that law enforcement agents should be paid the most among the listed options. All party affiliations had this occupation very highly ranked, although Republicans and independents placed them slightly higher than Democrats. Being an officer of the law is a dangerous job – between January and March 2021, there were already 86 deaths in the line of duty. This might explain why many think officers deserve to be paid handsomely for their service. According to respondents, the least-paid occupation should be casino dealers, and all three party affiliations were extremely likely to agree with this sentiment.


When asked how much these jobs should pay on an annual basis, the calculated hourly wage for cashiers turned out to be $12 an hour – the lowest among all jobs, despite cashiers being considered essential during the global pandemic. No overall effect could be identified when comparing hourly and annual wages, but specific jobs stood to gain for each. As an example, stockers/order fillers and janitors were given much more generous annual salaries, and cooks/food preparation workers would make more money based on the proposed hourly wages.

In order to gain insight into some of the reasons people may have for rating certain professions as deserving of higher salaries, we asked respondents to evaluate the skills and training required for the top- and bottom-earning jobs. We also asked them for their perceptions about general workplace risk and the specific risk of contracting COVID-19.


As it turns out, law enforcement agents earn about what the general public felt they deserve. Nursing assistants, on the other hand, earn over $23,000 less than what people thought they should earn. This is despite the fact that our respondents thought nursing assistants required more skills than police officers and the same amount of training and the fact that this profession carried the highest perceived COVID-19 risk of all jobs surveyed.

While the risk of COVID-19 exposure may have played a part in nursing assistants being allocated such a high salary by our respondents, the fact that 59% of people thought casino dealers also had a very high risk of infection did not save this profession from having one of the lowest suggested salaries. Perhaps this is because people felt casino dealers had a choice about their exposure, while nursing assistants were putting themselves at risk for the greater good of their communities.

Perceived risk of COVID-19 infection is one thing, but for jobs where the actual risk is just as high – including nursing assistants, child care workers, and dental hygienists – 93% of people thought it important that workers be required to get vaccinated.


The Ultimate Employee

Respondents were asked to rank the value of skills for any worker based on three distinct categories: soft (top), situational (middle), and technical (bottom). The listed skills were rated on a scale from 1 to 7, with 7 deemed the most valuable. The most valued skill for each category was communication with a score of 6.21, work ethic at 6.16, and tech proficiency at 5.48.


To better understand this framework, let’s see what kind of skills are valuable for specific jobs. For example, a cashier needs to have great communication and a positive attitude (soft skills) while a stocker/order filler should have strong attention to detail and time management skills (situational skills). A janitor needs to be physically capable to perform tasks and be spatially aware (situational skills). Despite these occupations requiring highly valued skills, they are often paid significantly lower than jobs like business analyst, which require tech proficiency and programming (technical skills).

The average soft, situational, and technical skills scores were 5.83, 5.67, and 5.06 out of 7, respectively. People gave the edge to soft skills in terms of value and for good reason. With the rise of technology, many job components are taken care of for us – for example, computer programs can cover a wide variety of technical applications including programming, data entry, and scheduling. Computers are very poor at simulating human interaction, though, which is why soft skills, like communication and critical thinking, are very valuable if you excel in them.

Movin’ On Up

Generally, the push for a higher minimum wage is supported by the American people, and through demographic analysis, some interesting findings have presented themselves. Also, when comparing hourly wages versus annual salaries, no overall effect could be seen, but wage differences were apparent in specific occupations. 

Lastly, being able to master soft skills is an essential asset to solidify yourself as a valuable team member wherever you’re working. The Interview Guys know all about the importance of this, and are experts in helping you get, keep, and grow within a job. To become the ultimate company asset, head over now to learn how to advance your career with confidence.

Methodology and Limitations

We collected 1,059 responses from Americans through Amazon Mechanical Turk. Fifty-one percent of our participants identified as men, 48% identified as women, and roughly 1% identified as nonbinary or nonconforming. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 89 with a mean of 40 and a standard deviation of 12.9. Those who failed an attention-check question were disqualified. Forty-eight percent of our respondents identified as Democrats, 28% as Republicans, and 24% as independents, with 45% identifying as liberal, 34% as conservative, and 21% as moderate. It is possible that with more Republican and/or conservative participants, we could have gained more insight into this population.

The data we have presented rely on self-report. There are many issues with self-reported data. These include, but are not limited to, the following: selective memory, telescoping, attribution, and exaggeration.

No statistical testing was performed, so the claims listed above are based on means alone. As such, this content is purely exploratory, and future research should approach this topic in a more rigorous way.

Fair Use Statement

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