Sunday, March 1, 2015

Most People Escape Minimum Wage Quickly

I frequently enough encounter this trope that it's worth rebutting at some length:

This is supposed to make a case for improving the lot of those in this world making minimum wage by raising it. The truth, however, is vastly more interesting. For this, we turn to the Bureau of Labor Statistics research on minimum wage employees (PDF), wherein we find slightly more than half (50.4%) of all such workers are under 25 years old. This is actually very good news, because it points to a crucial fact: most people get off the minimum wage early in their careers. To see why this is so, it's necessary to look at the labor force population by age bracket (available here as Civilian Labor Force, numbers as of January, 2015):
If half the minimum wage work force is in the left two brackets, it means the balance must be distributed among the others, and therefore less numerous in each one. In fact, only 1.6% of hourly employees older than 25 make minimum wage — or less! (How can that be?) Minimum wage work affects only a tiny number of people.

See also: this Pew Research piece.

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