Letters to the Editor

Wage statistics

May 7, 2008


To the editor:

On April 27, Graham Kreicker wrote that minimum wage laws don't cause job loss. To dispel such conventional foolishness, look at employment facts in the Statistical Abstract of the United States (www.bls.gov/cps/), and use a little common sense.

There are roughly 1.7 million minimum-wage workers in the United States. They are mostly young, inexperienced, part-time employees; 83.9 percent of all minimum-wage workers are under the age of 25; 61.1 percent are part-time employees. Only 1.1 percent of all full-time workers earn the minimum wage. Kids are the least experienced and the least reliable part-time workers. That's why the unemployment rate is highest among young workers 16-19 years old (15.4 percent), and declines with age. Among teenagers, the unemployment rate is 13.2 percent among whites, 29.1 percent among blacks, 14 percent among Asians, and 15.9 percent among Hispanics.

Increasing the minimum wage rate makes it more difficult for employers to justify training costs necessary to make kids useful workers, and eliminating low-wage job opportunities prevents lots of kids from gaining valuable job skills. You do not reduce poverty by getting teenagers and other part-time workers fired or never hired in the first place. Kids need low-wage job opportunities, better basic education, training, and the working experience that will make them high-wage workers. Enlightened economic policy focuses on ways to help workers earn maximum wages, not minimum wages.

Mark Hirschey,


booyalab 10 years, 1 month ago

Here's a brief timeline to demonstrate the impact and historical origins of minimum wage in the USA:1890-1930---Every census showed labor force participation rates for blacks to be as high as, or higher than, labor force participation rates among whites1931- The first minimum wage law the Davis-Bacon Act, was passed explicitly to prevent black construction workers from "taking jobs" from white construction workers by working for lower wages. It was meant to protect white workers from competition, not to protect black workers from "exploitation".1938- Fair Labor Standards Act1940s- Wartime inflation raised wages above the level specified in the 1938 act, so the full effect was delayed until the next decade.1950s-Amendments to raise the minimum wage began, and so did the widening racial differential in unemployment, especially for young black men. It has continued to this day. How ironic that the party that is supposedly the most compassionate to minorities promotes the policies that are most destructive to them.People who are less in demand -due to inexperience, lower skills, or race- are just as employable at lower pay rates as people who are in high demand are at higher pay rates.Minimum wage laws make discrimination economically feasible.

HootyWho 10 years, 1 month ago

I just want to be able to pay my bills

acoupstick 10 years, 1 month ago

"More workers are employed in our economy when wages fit the varied skill sets people hold."That is not reality. I have worked in jobs that paid much more than my current job (with better benefits) that demanded a much less sophisticated skillset."The market bears out the fairest and highest wages for the most worker, not government."Fairness is a pretty subjective measure, isn't it?Minimum wage should be federally mandated and tied to inflation. It should be high enough to meet basic subsistence and minimize government assistance and low enough to provide incentive to acquire jobs that pay more.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 1 month ago

Heidi Zeller is one of the local experts in this matter of wages and the effect of low wages vs. respectable wages. Face it the current minimum wage cannot support anyone with or without a family. It will not allow the purchase of a fuel efficient vehicle. Which if anyone needs one it is the lowest paid population. A "Living Wage" while substantially enhancing still may not qualify a family the privilege of buying a house. $5.15 per hour may have been okay 50 years ago but get real no way today jose'. Even a living wage will NOTsupport fun trips to the Breckenridge slopes.When a hard working employee shows up for work that employee is good for business and generates revenue for a business. Hard working full or part time employees deserve at least a living wage or better. Individuals not being properly recognized for hard work and/or the customers service they provide cannot be expected to stick around. Frankly I cannot understand how any business can afford high turnover. So many who complain about people seeking SRS assistance or some other source are the same ones who complain about paying a decent wage. Nothing but a bunch of yada yada yada.Start offering a very decent hourly wage and you are likely to discover there are hard working responsible individuals out there who will make money for their employers, provide excellent customer service and work at a respectable pace. Personal experience. The down side to that is fewer employees may be required. Low wages are not encouragement. The bottom line is the more employees make the more they support the community the more other business owners make.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 1 month ago

"More of low-skilled workers remain out of work when government manipulates wages."Really? Who is doing the work if low-wage workers aren't?

SettingTheRecordStraight 10 years, 1 month ago

Mr. Hirschey,You make WAY too much sense. I'm can't wait for all the comments today that will decry your use of commonsense and the basic tenents of Economics 101. After all, for some, it's not enough that we have equal opportunities in this country; we must have equal outcomes - even if the market can't support it and the government has to force it.

acoupstick 10 years, 1 month ago

"Forgive me for sounding harsh, but this is a socialist concept, pure and simple"So? I'm not afraid or ashamed of being called a socialist. I believe in some socialist principles. I believe in some capitalist principles. I have a diversity of education, work and life experiences that inform my views. If you think we live in a purely capitalist society, you are delusional. This country has meshed together principles of capitalism and socialism VERY successfully for the last 100 years. I believe a better way exists.

heidizeller 10 years, 1 month ago

Actually, Mr. Hirschey, three out of four minimum wage workers are 20+ years old. Have you ever looked at the tremendous amount of research that looks at the effects of the previous federal minimum wage increase of 1996-97? Or the evidence from states that have raised their wages above the federal level? A solid body of contemporary research has found no job loss resulting from increases in the minimum wage. For example, research by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) found that the 1996 and 1997 minimum wage increases did not cause job loss. There was no negative employment effect among either teens or adults. In fact, adults earning the minimum wage actually experienced a small increase in employment. Furthermore, EPI found that the 1996-97 increase in the minimum wage did not reduce the employment of minorities or women. Raising the minimum wage was associated with statistically significant employment increases among teenage Latinas, less-educated adult women, and less-educated adult African-American women. For whites and for African-Americans overall, the minimum wage increase resulted in neither significant positive nor negative employment effects. A March 2006 report from the Fiscal Policy Institute found that state minimum wage rates that are higher than the federal rate have not had a negative effect on employment. In states with minimum wage rates above the federal level, small business employment and employment overall grew faster than in states where the federal minimum wage of $5.15 was in effect. Even when the economy is struggling, minimum wage increases have not been found to cost jobs. As discussed in EPI's Step Up, Not Out, economist David Card's study of the 1990 and 1991 minimum wage increases -- which occurred when the economy was in recession -- found that the increases did not have any negative effect on employment.New economic models that look specifically at low-wage labor markets help explain why there is little evidence of job loss associated with minimum wage increases. These models recognize that employers can absorb some of the costs of a wage increase through higher productivity, lower recruiting and training costs, decreased absenteeism, and increased worker morale.Read the evidence yourself at http://www.raisethewagekansas.org/wichita/resources/Mr. Hirschey, the fact is: if workers make more money, they will spend it BY NECESSITY on the basics: rent, food, utilities, childcare and transportation. This pumps more dollars into local economies. By NOT raising the minimum wage, these workers and their families will be increasingly dependent on social services paid for by your tax dollars, like housing subsidies, food stamps and Medicaid. Don't you think it makes more sense to raise the wage? Don't you think that workers deserve to be paid more than the Kansas minimum wage of $2.65 an hour? -Heidi ZellerRaise the Wage, Kansas

feeble 10 years, 1 month ago

SettingTheRecordStraight (Anonymous) says:Those jobs are gone, bozo. The movie theater ushers, the gas station attendants, etc. And other jobs will leave our economy if, God forbid, a "living wage" becomes law.-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------These are poor examples. The primary source of revenue for Gas Stations and Movie Theaters isn't their "iconic" product (gas or movie ticket admissions) but rather concessions. Further, changing marketplaces, in the form of mail-order overnight movie rentals, on-demand video, short turn times on movie to dvd release, as well as more mundane things such as rapid increase in the price of gasoline/oil per barrel), force these businesses to reduce cost wherever possible. Care to try again?

SettingTheRecordStraight 10 years, 1 month ago

"Minimum wage should be federally mandated and tied to inflation. It should be high enough to meet basic subsistence" - acoupstickForgive me for sounding harsh, but this is a socialist concept, pure and simple. The government should not be in the business of determining what wages meet "basic subsistence." The government should not be in the business of determing any wages, for the matter. The job market bears out appropriate wages.

SettingTheRecordStraight 10 years, 1 month ago

No, Heidi. More of low-skilled workers remain out of work when government manipulates wages. This is because the wages the government demands from employers eliminates a whole category of jobs from the marketplace. More workers are employed in our economy when wages fit the varied skill sets people hold. The market bears out the fairest and highest wages for the most worker, not government.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 1 month ago

Yes, notajayhawk, but as I have pointed out, your statistic is merely an indication of how ridiculously low the minimum wage currently is. If you adjust for inflation, there are many millions more who make less than the minimum wage of 1968.

SettingTheRecordStraight 10 years, 1 month ago

Those jobs are gone, bozo. The movie theater ushers, the gas station attendants, etc. And other jobs will leave our economy if, God forbid, a "living wage" becomes law. Government manipulated wages also drive up costs of goods and services, so don't forget that you will pay more for everything everywhere if a "living wage" is thrust upon us.

SettingTheRecordStraight 10 years, 1 month ago

HootyWho,Then get the training or education necessary to make yourself marketable. Don't make job providers pay more than employees are worth.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 10 years, 1 month ago

Those jobs will only disappear if people don't value the benefit of the service provided. If you do value the benefit, you should be willing to pay what it really costs to provide it.

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