Young Workers

by blakegriffinenc

Minimum wage will always be a controversial issue no matter what the actual wage is, but sometimes we can get so caught up in statistics and dollar signs, we forget which groups are actually being affected by the changes to the minimum wage. I often hear people talk about Walmart workers and fast food employees, but not so often do I hear people talk specifically about just teenagers, or workers who are new to the workforce. Like any issue, there are two sides to this argument. Some argue that teenagers will benefit from a wage increase, while others argue that teenagers will be hurt by a wage increase. Nonetheless, both sides tend to agree that teenagers will largely be affected, be it positively or negatively, by a change in the wage.

James Sherk, a writer and economics data analyst for The Heritage Foundation, believes that raising minimum wage will benefit teenagers because “these workers represent the largest group that would benefit directly from a higher minimum wage, provided they kept or could find a job.” Sherk claims that the majority of minimum wage workers are new to the workforce, or are teenagers who are not relying on their earnings from work, because they live with their legal guardians. Sherk cites many statistics from reputable sources such as the U.S. Census Bureau to back up his claims. He states that 79% of minimum wage earning teenagers only work part-time, 62% are enrolled in school, and the average family income of these teens is $65,900 per year. He believes that instead of helping adults who are in poverty, raising the minimum wage will mostly be a benefit to teenagers because they do not live entirely on their own earnings. The only problem is that all of this hinges on the assumption that a teenager will be able to keep, or find a job when the minimum wage is bumped up to $10, or even $15 an hour.

No matter what the wage is, if you cannot acquire a job, then you will never benefit from that wage. The other side of the argument is based on the idea that if minimum wage becomes too high, most employers will avoid hiring workers with limited, or no experience. The Employment Policies Institute, also known as EPI, conducted some research on this, and came to the conclusion that a higher minimum wage will decrease jobs for teenagers. According to EPI, the reason for this is that when the minimum wage rises, employers will try to save money by cutting down on low-priority positions. Teenagers and new workers have very limited experience, so they are sometimes given very simple jobs, which could be handled by others who already work for the company in a higher position. EPI also reports that if minimum wage were to increase too much, employers will have less money to spend on hiring new workers, which leaves unskilled teenagers out of the job.

To conclude: I think, if faced with the choice, most people would rather make $15 an hour than $7.25 an hour. Making extra money sometimes can come with costs, though. James Sherk talks about how being paid $15 an hour would be a huge benefit for teenagers, assuming they can get a job, of course. The problem is that it is very likely they will not be able to get a job at all if the minimum wage was actually raised to $15 an hour. A $15 an hour minimum wage is not at all helpful if you can never acquire a job to actually earn it.

Works Cited

“Employment Policies Institute | Minimum Wage: Teen Unemployment.” Employment Policies Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 June 2016.

Sherk, James. “Who Earns the Minimum Wage? Suburban Teenagers, Not Single Parents.” The Heritage Foundation. N.p., 23 Feb. 2013. Web. 16 June 2016.