NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Hurts Young, Black Workers

June 7, 1996

The expected increase in the nation's minimum wage will hurt one of the most vulnerable sectors of American society -- black teenage males. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, joblessness among this group tends to rise and fall in tandem with minimum wage fluctuations.

  • In 1954, when the minimum wage did not apply to most sectors of the economy other than manufacturing, the joblessness rate for black youths was about 14 percent -- about the same as for whites.
  • From 1971 to 1980, during which Congress raised the minimum six times, black family income rose just 3 percent while white income rose 8 percent.
  • During the eight years in which President Reagan refused to raise the minimum, inflation reduced the real minimum by 28 percent, and joblessness among black teen males declined from 38 percent to 32 percent -- the lowest rate since 1973.
  • During the same period, real median income rose 11 percent for black families versus 8 percent for whites.

Then in 1990-91, minimum wage hikes pushed the real floor up 16 percent and unemployment among black teen males soared to 42 percent. The jobless rate for black males ages 16 to 19 has new fallen back to 35 percent -- just in time for another hike in the minimum.

Raising the minimum wage, opponents contend, eliminates just the sort of jobs that teenagers are likely to get: the first jobs where they learn the skills to earn more. To think that business owners operating on a small margin won't cut hours or jobs to cover the hike in the minimum wage represents the triumph of faith over experience.

Source: Editorial, "Easy Compassion," Investor's Business Daily, June 7, 1996.


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