Essay Writing Samples

Sample Research Proposal on the Living Wage

It is a well-known fact that many Americans are still economically struggling as the nation moves out of the recent recession, with younger people being saddled with debt and often unable to find well-paying jobs. The concept of the living wage becomes an important one. The living wage refers to a significant spike in the minimum wage, such that all working Americans would be able to expect an increase in the qualities of their lives.

Sample research proposal on the living wage

At face value, this sounds like a great thing: after all, almost everyone would agree that any person who works hard at a job should be able to expect to take care of himself and his family. This sample research paper discusses that, at the level of economic analysis, it is possible that implementing a living wage policy may have unintended consequences that end up subverting the objectives of the policy itself.

The proposal that will be made here, then, is to conduct an in-depth investigation of the concept of the living wage and its potential economic implications. The methodology that will be used here will consist of a review of studies and commentaries, both in the academic literature and in political magazines. This should provide a good panoramic picture of the various reasons why people are for and against the living wage, as well as the expected consequences of implementing or not implementing a living wage policy.

The research proposal will be organized in terms of the main themes or topics that emerge as a result of an investigation of the relevant literature on this subject. The proposal will begin with a section on background context regarding why this is a timely subject to explore at the present political moment. Then, it will proceed to consider two key themes that support the implementation of a living wage policy, and two key themes that oppose it. The research proposal will close with a short, annotated bibliography of selected sources cited in the present document.

Background context

During the recent presidential election season, a significant raise in the minimum wage became a defining issue for the Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton supported a raise to $12/hour, whereas Bernie Sanders advocated for $15/hour. And recently, Sanders and many other Democrats in the Senate introduced a bill in favor of the raise to $15/hour (Weigel, 2017).

This would more than double the minimum wage of several states within the nation; and indeed, even the state with the highest current minimum wage in the country, Washington, only has a minimum wage of $11/hour. The current proposal is akin to what is going on in California currently, which is on a schedule to gradually raise the minimum wage by a dollar each year until it hits $15/hour in the year 2022 (National Conference of State Legislatures, 2017). The proposal put forth by Sanders and his colleagues would achieve the $15 mark at a national level by the year 2024.

Obviously, no one who is working for the minimum wage would be able to complain about this, at least at the level of sheer personal self-interest. Who wouldn’t want to make double what they’re making now, for doing the same work? America would seem to be going through a populist political moment right now, with the result that workers in general want to be better protected and more valued for what they do, and well deservedly so.

A serious question to consider, however, would consist of whether the implementation of the living wage would in fact make for economically sound policy. In other words, would it improve the qualities of lives of workers across the nation, or does it fare better as a mere slogan than it would as an actual operationalized policy? The purpose present research proposal is to put forth a call for a research project that will address this question in greater depth.

Themes in Favor of the Living Wage

Simple morality

A key theme that emerges in favor of the implementation of the living wage policy consists of simple moral considerations, including considerations of protecting the weak from exploitation. As Harvey (2015) has put the matter:

such a revision [of the minimum wage to a living wage] would allow the law to do what it was designed to do in the first place: protect the least powerful members of our society from predation” (para. 3).

All other pragmatic considerations aside, this could be understood as a moral imperative. If a person works hard at a job, then he should be able to take care of himself and his family, and the government should set up a system of regulations such that this becomes possible, and that the worker is not left to the mercy of brutal market forces.

Economic growth

Another theme in favor of the living wage suggests that if the average worker has more money to spend, then this will generally result in the broad and sustainable development of the national economy. As Equitable Growth (2017) has suggested, implementation of the living wage policy could provide many families with more disposable income, which will lead to more spending, which in turn would serve as a stimulus for businesses to emerge and develop.

One could envision a kind of win-win situation, where higher wages results in greater spending, which results in overall enhancements in national prosperity, which would then continue to drive wages even further up. Essentially, the idea here would be that labor is the cornerstone of the economy, and that enhancing the value of labor, it will become possible to enhance the productivity of the entire economy.

Themes Against the Living Wage

An arbitrary number

A key theme against the implementation of the living wage policy is that a mere number, such as $15/hour, often says almost nothing about the true cost of living within any given time and place. For example, McMaken (2015) has argued the following:

“the living wage is a function not simply of the wage, but of the cost of housing, food, health care, transportation, and a myriad of other factors. Where housing costs are low, for example, the living wage will be lower than it would be in a place where housing costs are high” (para. 4).

This means that in principle, $15/hour may be a reasonable wage in some places, not enough to get by in others, and almost extravagant in yet other places. A national policy would ignore all such local context and attempt to impose a one-size-fits all solution, with the unintended consequence that the minimum wage will not be the same as an actual living wage in many places, insofar as the living wage varies but the minimum wage would become static.


Another key theme is that implementation of the living wage would amount to wage inflation. Labor would be valued, because of government fiat, higher than it would be by the free market and the laws of supply and demand. This would then result in the inflation of the cost of everything else as well, such that the living wage would cancel itself out and end up producing a situation that was even worse than the one it started with.

This has sometimes been called wage push inflation, which

“is a general increase in the cost of goods that is preceded by and results from an increase in wages” (Investopedia, 2017).

This is because fundamentally, the implementation of a living wage policy would amount to an arbitrary intervention into market dynamics, and the market itself will eventually self-correct in order to offset this imposed imbalance.


From the discussion of themes above, it should be clear that the issue of the living wage is not as simple or straightforward as it may initially appear. Rather, there are conflicting values involved, as well as potential gaps between good intentions on the one hand and actually good outcomes on the other. In this context, an in-depth research paper could explore these themes (as well as others that may emerge) in greater depth, as well as conduct an analysis of the competing claims of each of these themes, whereas the present proposal has only briefly introduced those claims.

The research paper will not seek to make a persuasive argument in favor of one claim or another. However, it is nevertheless possible that an evenhanded analysis of the various themes and claims will end up supporting one conclusion more heavily than others. The specific outcomes of the project are not yet clear; what is clear, though, is that this is clearly a project that is worth pursuing.

Selected Annotated Bibliography

Harvey, J. T. (2015, July 31). The real argument for raising the minimum wage. Forbes.

This article highlights the fact that the argument in favor of the living wage is essentially moral in nature. That is, it is about achieving fairness and protecting the weak. What the article does not address, however, is whether the living wage would in fact achieve these moral outcomes. In any event, the article does shed light on at least the intentions and motivations of calls for the living wage. A further evaluation would be needed to assess whether implementation of a living wage policy would in fact produce the desired effects.

Investopedia. (2017). Wage push inflation. Author. Retrieved from

This article discusses an important concept—a concept that suggests that when wages go up, the price of everything else will go up as well. This is because the free market is a dynamic system that adjusts for imbalances and tends toward equilibrium. An increase in wages would essentially amount to an increase in the price of labor; and if this increase is introduced from outside of the system (for example, through government policy), then the system would adjust for this interference by producing corresponding increases in the prices of other things. The upshot would be that implementation of the living wage policy may result in widespread inflation.

McMaken, R. (2015, September 4). The failed moral argument for a “living wage”. MISES Institute. Retrieved from

This article suggests that it would be absurd to hold employers alone responsible for providing a living wage for their workers, given that the living wage is determined by a host of holistic factors beyond the employers’ control. For example, the living wage in any given community depends on the cost of food and housing just as much as it does on the specific wage paid by the employer to the worker. The living wage could thus end up causing new disparities by failing to take local or situational factors into account.

Weigel, D. (2017, April 28). Sanders and 21 Democrats introduce bill to raise minimum wage to $15 an hour. Washington Post. Retrieved from

This article highlights the importance of the issue of the living wage within the current political moment: the issue has become an important part of the platform of the Democratic Party. This provides general justification for the significance of undertaking the proposed research project at the present time.


Equitable Growth. (2017, May 10). The importance of raising the minimum wage to boost broad-based U.S. economic growth. Washington Center for Equitable Growth. Retrieved from

Harvey, J. T. (2015, July 31). The real argument for raising the minimum wage. Forbes.

Investopedia. (2017). Wage push inflation. Author. Retrieved from

McMaken, R. (2015, September 4). The failed moral argument for a “living wage”. MISES Institute. Retrieved from

National Conference of State Legislatures. (2017). State minimum wages: 2017 minimum wage by state. Author. Retrieved from

Weigel, D. (2017, April 28). Sanders and 21 Democrats introduce bill to raise minimum wage to $15 an hour. Washington Post. Retrieved from

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *