Wage Mandates Keep Teens Unemployed

Posted on May 30, 2010

Teens will have a tough time finding a job this summer [RGJ, May 23], and one often overlooked
reason is wage mandates that create a barrier between teens who want to work and employers who
want to hire.

Between July 2007 and July 2009, Congress increased the federal minimum wage 40 percent.
Recent research from Ball State University attributes the loss of 310,000 teenage part-time jobs to this
wage hike. Nevada mandates a wage rate even higher than the federal level and is scheduled to
increase its minimum wage again this July.

Minimum wages raise the cost of hiring and training entry-level employees like teens. Employers respond
by cutting staff hours or positions and, over time, are forced to replace “full-service” positions with
“self-service” and “automated.”

These unemployed teens are deprived of the valuable invisible curriculum that comes from
reporting to a supervisor, showing up on time and working with others as part of a team. Research from
Northeastern University found that teens without job opportunities — especially economically
disadvantaged teens — are also more likely to drop out of high school or get tangled up in the criminal
justice system.

Michael Saltsman
Research fellow
Employment Policies Institute
Washington, D.C.