The Unemployment Statistics are at Odds with Increasing the Minimum Wage

Although young people support Senator Sanders’ policies, his policies don’t necessarily support young people. When Sanders recently went on the Joe Rogan Experience to talk about his platform, he assured Rogan that “the majority of [minimum wage] workers are not kids,” but analyses from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) suggest otherwise. The majority of minimum wage workers are young, and raising the minimum wage would hit them the hardest.

According to the BLS, in 2018 only 0.5 percent of all hourly employees made the minimum wage – a 40-year record low. The number goes even lower, to .28 percent, when including both salaried and hourly employees. In addition, 32 percent of minimum wage workers live in moderate income households, while only 18 percent are in low-income households.

Yet, claims like Sanders’ that the “majority of minimum wage workers are not kids” are simply not accurate. 38 percent of minimum wage workers are 19 or younger, while 62.5 percent are 24 or younger. By in large, minimum wage jobs are being filled by students in high school or people with no experience entering their first job.

But jobs still need to be filled, so wouldn’t rising the wage help? Not quite.

Numerous studies highlight the diminishing effects of minimum wage laws, where workers lose more than what they gain. The National Bureau of Economic Research reported the average minimum wage worker lost $125 dollars per year due to Seattle’s 2016 wage raise. Though employees experienced pay increases, their hours were reduced at a higher rate, which created a net loss on workers’ earnings.

As the nation experiences a decline in youth employment, we should rightly be concerned about minimum wage laws excluding young workers. The World of Labor research found a “10% increase in the minimum wage led, on average, to a 7.4–10.5% decrease in employment of teenagers.” Having that first job also increases the chances of finding future employment.

People working part-time jobs are 60 percent more likely to find employment than those who haven’t worked at all. Research also shows students who work part-time in high school have annual earnings that are 20 percent higher 6-9 years after graduation compared to those who didn’t have a job in high school. Making sure that accessible employment is attainable for young people leads to greater opportunities that they otherwise wouldn’t have had.

Starting my first job as a lifeguard in high school, I got hired based solely on a reference. However, because of that opportunity, I leveraged myself into better positions overtime. Had the minimum wage been higher, who knows if I would’ve been hired in the first place. Likewise, policies like Sanders’ seem to help low wage workers, but the truth doesn’t pan out. Not only do minimum wage laws have adverse effects on the general population, those who need jobs the most — mainly young people — would be hit the hardest. For teens, having a minimum wage job is a lot better than having a nonexistent $15 per hour job.

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