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IPFS News Link • Minimum Wage

Why The Minimum Wage Is So Bad For Young Workers

•, by Mitch Nemeth

On a basic level, raising the minimum wage appears to be a sympathetic policy for low-income wage earners. Often kept out of the conversation, however, are the downstream effects of this proposal. The consensus among economists has always been that a price floor on "low-skilled labor" leads to unemployment "among the very people minimum wage legislation allegedly helps." Surely those who retain their employment will reap the higher hourly pay but not without consequence to the rest of the "low-skilled" labor market.

Government-mandated minimum wage increases directly result in a higher price floor for hourly labor. The more indirect consequences include reductions in hours worked, layoffs, automation, operational changes, and loss of opportunity. In Economics 101, students are taught about trade-offs. A trade-off, as defined by the Business Dictionary, is "a technique of reducing or forgoing one or more desirable outcomes in exchange for increasing or obtaining other desirable outcomes in order to maximize the total return." We incur trade-offs every day, such as the decision to buy dinner from a restaurant for $10 or to eat our holiday leftovers. Businesses incur trade-offs as well.

For example, let's consider your local grocery store. The grocer may employ ten people, including one manager and nine employees. The manager makes well over the current minimum wage, but six of the nine other employees make the current minimum wage. If the current minimum wage is increased from $7.25 to $12.50 per hour, the rate of increase is 72.4 percent. While this increase may sound reasonable from the perspective of some readers, this is a large increase given the relatively low profit margins in this industry. What are the downstream effects?