NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Who Is That Minimum Wage Worker?

April 14, 1998

Congressional Democrats want to raise the minimum wage yet again. The $1 increase they envision would raise the rate to $6.15 an hour by 2000 -- an increase of nearly 20 percent.

Proponents of the increase portray the minimum wage worker as the head of a struggling family. But experts say that is unlikely.

  • Only 16 percent are the sole supporters of others, according to the Employment Policies Institute.
  • Most minimum wage workers are teens or spouses of other wage earners.
  • In fact, the average family income for minimum wage workers is $35,000.
  • Studies have shown that each 10 percent increase in the wage rate raises unemployment among teenagers by 1 percent.

Employment Policies Institute data show that teens lost 128,000 jobs after the first 50-cent phase of the last increase took effect in 1996. If not for the wage hike, the economy would have added another 380,000 jobs.

Many studies show that these increases fall particularly hard on those entering the work force, as well as those whose skills are not sufficient to merit or justify the higher rate of pay.

Source: Charles Oliver, "Democrats Back Another Move to Increase the Minimum Wage," Investor's Business Daily, April 14, 1998.


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