This column by Jeffrey Dorfman deserves a full read, but for sake of brevity here is a summary of points:
- Only “a very small group of people” earn at or below the minimum wage: 2.5 percent of all workers and 1.5 percent of the population of potential workers
- About one-third are teenagers — over half (55 percent) are 25 years old or younger.
- For people over 25, only about 1.1 percent of all workers — 0.8 percent of all Americans — earn the minimum wage.
Of that tiny subset:
- most are not poor
- most are not trying to support a family on just their earnings
- about two-thirds (63 percent) of workers earning up to $2.25 over the minimum wage are the second or third earner in their family
- 43 percent of those workers are in households pulling in over $50,000/year
As Dorfman states,
Thus, minimum wage earners are not a uniformly poor and struggling group; many are teenagers from middle class families and many more are sharing the burden of providing for their families, not carrying the load all by themselves.
Furthermore, this tiny subset is shrinking and would appear to center on areas where the incoming skill requirements of employees is lower:
- “In 1980, 15 percent of hourly workers earned the minimum wage.”
- “Today that share is down to only 4.7 percent.”
- “almost two-thirds of today’s minimum wage workers are in the service industry and nearly half work in food service.”
In sum, this column shows that
the number of minimum wage workers is small and shrinking, that most minimum wage workers are not poor, and that most of them are young and working their way up the ladder rather than supporting a family
Concerning the present push to hike the minimum wage nearly 40 percent again (an idea that failed miserably last time, so in government thinking that means it should be repeated, and in leftist thinking it is a necessary albeit desperate stab at changing the election-year subject from the unfolding disaster of Obamacare), Dorfman makes an important point. It is not just as has been argued here and elsewhere, that raising the minimum wage damages further the employment prospects of the least educated, least skilled, poor, and minorities.
It also, since it would necessarily disproportionately affect low-price industries and food providers that serve the poor, harm the buying power of the poor. As Dorfman writes,
Unfortunately, in many cases (including restaurants), the minimum wage increase results in price increases paid by the customers; customers who may be no richer than the workers whose pay increase they are being forced to fund.
But wait, let us consider ‘morality’
What Dorfman doesn’t write, perhaps because he isn’t subjected as we are here to the religion-draped inventors of political definitions of “morality” on the fly as it suits the partisan needs of the day, is this:
- Raising prices on poor customers to limit their ability to provide for their families is the moral imperative of our time, meaning it must be what Jesus would do.
- Also, lowering prices faced by the poor — that is, expanding their ability to provide for their family — is immoral, exploiting the poor, making a buck off them.
- As for pushing the minimum wage so artificially high that machine substitutes become the more viable, less expensive option; well, that is moral, too.
- It is extra special moral if you can reap donations while tricking poor workers into walking out to protest in favor of being priced out of their own jobs.