December 27, 2017

Minimum wage hikes have minimal effect on teen jobs, report says

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Increasing the wage floor is not likely to have a significant effect on employment for teenagers, a cohort that makes up about three percent of the Massachusetts workforce and roughly 12 percent of state minimum wage earners, a new report found.

There are about 104,000 workers aged 16 through 19 in Massachusetts and 82 percent of those workers earn at or near the $11 an hour minimum wage, according to a Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center report, “Teens, Employment, and the Minimum Wage,” released Tuesday.

Researchers from the left-leaning MassBudget said that “the most carefully designed studies” have found “little to no effect” on teen employment from minimum wage increases — like the increase to $15 an hour by 2022 that activists are hoping will be on the 2018 ballot.

“Teen employment rises when the economy is strong, and falls when it is weak,” Nicole Rodriguez, a MassBudget senior policy analyst and author of the report, said in a statement. “We found that, following two years of minimum wage increases in Massachusetts, teen unemployment was at its lowest in 18 years. While minimum wage increases don’t have a large effect on employment, they do have a significant effect on the wages and incomes of teens and their families.”

Though they are a small share of the total workforce, teens bring home 17.7 percent of the family income in households with a total annual family income under $47,000, MassBudget said, and 7.4 percent of household income on average.

The proposed increase in the state wage floor would be phased in over four years and if lawmakers don’t take action themselves by April 30, petitioners will need to gather at least 10,792 signatures by July 3, 2018, to put the question to voters in November 2018.

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