Over the past year, grave warnings of an ongoing crisis have been issued from politically Left-leaning think tanks like Policy Matters Ohio all the way up to the President of the United States. This relentless drumbeat of doom, the specter of which demanded our federal executive to act without Congressional action, would have Americans believe that without a minimum wage increase, countless millions of people will fall into oblivion. Yet their wailing ignores the plight of the needy—the young, unskilled, and unemployed, who are far less likely to find a job if liberals succeed in raising wages such that entry-level jobs are eliminated, or are priced out of their reach.
As recently highlighted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 4.3 percent of hourly paid workers earned the federal minimum wage or less in 2013. Young people from the ages of 16 to 24 made up 50.4 percent of workers making at or below minimum wage. Only 2.7 percent of hourly workers 25 or older made at or below the federal minimum wage. The East North Central census division, comprised of Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin, saw 4.3 percent of all hourly workers paid at or below the federal minimum wage. This outcome is reflective of the nation as a whole and well below the 5.7 percent seen in the South region, which stretches from Delaware to Texas.
While it is important not to trivialize those who do earn a living in a career at the minimum wage, it is also important to keep the issue in the proper context. A vast majority of workers do not earn an income at or below the federal minimum wage and those that do are more likely to be younger and to grow into higher earnings as their careers progress.
And that it is in the area of employment levels for youth where the wailing is deserved. As America has crawled out of the hole created by the great recession, young workers continue to struggle to find work. For African Americans, the youth unemployment rate is even worse, a whopping 36.1 percent in March. As multiple studies, such as the Cato Institute and even the Congressional Budget Office, show, hiking the minimum wage is likely to be a job killer, especially for those seeking to start on the ladder of economic success. To deny them a chance to climb that ladder is what should truly be considered a drumbeat of doom.