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The Minimum Wage Law’s Effect: No Jobs for Teenagers

Written by Gary North on August 30, 2013

Economists for 40 years have written a steady stream articles on how the minimum wage law creates high unemployment for teenagers, especially black males. Liberals pay no attention. They prefer laws that overturn the law of supply and demand. “Employers must pay more to hire teenagers than teenagers are worth. That’s only fair!”

But then, every so often, reality intrudes.

In 1999, slightly more than 52 percent of teens 16 to 19 worked a summer job. By this year, that number had plunged to about 32.25 percent over June and July. It means that slightly more than three in 10 teens actually worked a summer job, out of a universe of roughly 16.8 million U.S. teens.

“We have never had anything this low in our lives. This is a Great Depression for teens, and no time in history have we encountered anything like that,” said Andrew Sum, director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University in Boston. “That’s why it’s such an important story.”

Summer is traditionally the peak period of employment for teens as they are off from school and get their first brush with employment and the responsibilities that come with it. Falling teen employment, however, is just as striking in the 12-month numbers over the past decade.

The picture these teen employment statistics provide looks even worse when viewed through the complex prism of race. Sum and colleagues did just that, comparing June and July 2000 and the same two months of 2013. In 2000, 61.28 percent of white teens 16 to 19 held a job, a number that fell to 39.25 percent this summer. For African-Americans, a number that was dismal in 2000, 33.91 percent of 16 to 19 year olds holding a job, fell to a staggering low of 19.25 percent this June and July.

It wasn’t terribly better for Hispanics, who saw the percentage of employed teens fall from 40.31 percent in the two-month period of 2000 to 26.7 percent in June and July 2013.

One of the more surprising findings of Sum’s research is that teens whose parents were wealthy were more likely to have a job than those whose parents had less income. Some 46 percent of white male teens whose parents earned between $100,000 and $149,000 held a job this summer, compared with just 9.1 percent of black male teens whose family income was below $20,000 and 15.2 percent for Hispanic teen males with that same low family income.

That finding is important because a plethora of research shows that teens who work do better in a wide range of social and economic indicators. The plunging teen employment rate is likely to mean trouble for this generation of young workers of all races.

Something must be done, liberals insist. But what?  Liberals have an answer: raise the minimum wage!

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11 thoughts on “The Minimum Wage Law’s Effect: No Jobs for Teenagers

  1. Children learn what they live. When both parents WORK and earn a living, the child learns the WORK ethic. When one parent is absent, and the other is accepting government hand outs, the child learns to live off the government hand outs (taxes taken from WORKERS).

  2. Phillip the Bruce says:

    Yes, please, increase the minimum wage. That will create more jobs for the 'udocumented' segment of the population that is willing to work low-paying jobs for cash under the table.

  3. Back when America actually made products the world wanted to buy, there was shop class in high school where a teenager who wasn't a whiz with the textbooks could actually learn a marketable skill (woodworking, metallurgy, auto repair). The apprenticeship system worked: a teen with no real-world experience could learn at the feet of a master mechanic, plumber, carpenter or brick mason. Even if he was paid nothing, he was getting the kind of education you can't put a price on.

    Now everyone expects a "living wage" even when they have nothing of value to offer an employer and we have record unemployment. Brilliant!

  4. There is something going on with the work ethic as well. We have a farm and hire help each summer to pick up hay from the field, usually teenagers. We have consistently paid several dollars more than minimum wage for this help, but each year it has become more and more difficult to find anyone who even wants to do this work. We are to the point of changing our operation, spending several thousands of dollars to buy different equipment so we can eliminate our need for people to help, or abandoning production altogether. Either way it works out, those job opportunities will have disappeared by next summer.

  5. There are two reasons why the youth enemployment numbers are getting worse, one being not enough jobs for them and two, so many youths now have a welfare mentality, why work when the govt will support me. Minimum wage was never intended to support a family, it was a starting place for people to learn job skills and want to further their education for higher standards for themselves. I worked at a large grocery chain in l958 and I got a 1.12 an hour and I would have worked for even half of that, as I wanted to earn my own money. I also lived in a family that believed you could be anything if you are willing to work for it. Not the culture of today. All I hear from the youth is what the hard-working people who pay taxes can give me.

  6. WhiteFalcon says:

    The above statistics are all associated with Ovomit. He is the lynchpin on which poor performance depends. Get rid of him and replace him with someone that has a real brain and everything will reverse and trend up.

  7. Don't be silly. Liberal get it that raising the minimum wage creates unemployment in low end jobs. The fact is they don't care. They are going for the illusion that the love and want to help the poor. Those harmed don't get it. They buy into the illusion and think "those liberals (Democrats) are trying to help me. I should vote for them." End of story. See my blog at http://cranky-conservative.blogspot.com

  8. Anyway you slice it, “minimum wage” is a restriction … not an opportunity. Minimum wage law limits what an employer can do. Do you really think minimum wage law that helps an unskilled person looking for a start. “Living wage?” What is that supposed to be? Has anyone noticed that the same Congresspersons who passed Minimum Wage LAW are almost $17 trillion dollars overdrawn on their “credit card?”

    Unfortunately, those seeking our vote – plus the public school system, along with MSM – have successful cast entrepreneurs as the “heavy” in this tragedy.

    The more stupid we are the more we suffer. It’s a “Law” … like gravity.

  9. While you're at it why not point out how the government forces nearly full unemployment amongst children? Instead of working they're forced into schools.

    However if said teenagers can't get work and experience then they'll be in time unemployable adults. Why should being an adult suddenly make you "employable" if you never been employed?

  10. CAllenDoudna says:

    How about this: Allolw local communities to set their own wage laws for teens at their after-school and summer jobs and I would suggest $5/hr if the GPA is "A", $4/hr if the GPA is "B", $3/hr for "C", ect and $0.50/hr if they quit school–learn more earn more. The Boss could raise or lower these wages based on his perception of job performance. Also, the local Better Business Bureau or Chamber of Commerce could come up with a multiplier based on the experience of various local employers with students from various local schools so that a "C" from Swank Scholastic would be paid as if it were a "B" from Middleton High while a "C" from Dumbdown High would be paid the same as a "D" from Middleton.

  11. Act of natural consequences!