Minimum Wage: Teenage Job Killer
Despite severe economic difficulties confronting businesses, and soaring unemployment among youths and minorities, the federal minimum wage is slated to increase to $7.25 in July from $6.55 today. This will be the final step of a three-step increase enacted in the spring 2007, when the unemployment rate was 4.5%. Based on 20 years of research, I doubt there is ever a goodtime to raise the minimum wage. However, with the aggregate unemployment rate at 9.4%, the teen unemployment rate exceeding 22%, and the unemployment rate for black teens nearing 40%, next month's increase seems like the worst timing possible (see chart above).
The accumulated evidence undermines the case for minimum wages even in the best of times. I recognize that there is continuing debate about some of the effects of minimum wages, and that strong public support for higher minimums -- regardless of the evidence -- will likely lead to future increases.
But let's put aside the broader debate and focus on the narrower question: Should we raise the minimum wage in the worst of times? When so many people -- especially the young -- are struggling to find a toe hold in the labor market, does it really make sense to make it harder for employers to hire them? I do not expect President Obama or congressional Democrats to give up their long-held support for a higher minimum wage. However, they should delay the increase in the minimum wage scheduled for this summer.
~David Neumark in today's WSJ
The high rate of unemployment among teenagers, and especially black teenagers, is both a scandal and a serious source of social unrest. Yet it is largely a result of minimum wage laws. We regard the minimum wage law as one of the most, if not the most, antiblack laws on the statute books.
~Milton Friedman in Free to Choose
The idea of using a minimum wage to overcome poverty is old, honorable - and fundamentally flawed. It's time to put this hoary debate behind us, and find a better way to improve the lives of people who work very hard for very little.
~NY Times "The Right Minimum Wage: $0.00" (1/14/1987)