Yet another example of how Seattle voters have grown increasingly out of touch with the Seattle Times editorial board: “Let companies set lower minimum wage for more teens.” The goal, supposedly, is to address the declining employment rate amongst teens. But…
The minimum wage may not have had anything to do with that huge decline. The recession put lots of adults in competition for the entry-level jobs that historically gave teens their start. A lower minimum wage for 16- and 17-year-olds could displace older workers.
Still, a lower minimum for more teens is worth exploring. Sixteen- and 17-year-olds are less likely to be supporting themselves than 18- or 19-year-olds.
Um… except… those are all reasons for not lowering the minimum wage for teens. I mean, apart from the fact that there’s no actual data suggesting a connection between the minimum wage and declining teen employment (if there was even the flimsiest data, the editors would sure cite it, since flimsy data seems to be their favorite kind), our labor market is already so incredibly unbalanced—do we really want to put even more downward pressure on the wages of workers who are supporting themselves and their families?
The problem is not that wages are too high. It’s that older, more experienced, more competent workers are being forced to take jobs that used to be filled by teens, thanks to a lack of other opportunities. If you can make an compelling argument that lowering the minimum wage for teens would actually help create more jobs—and the editors don’t bother—I’m willing to listen. But if all we’re doing is creating an economic incentive for employers to shift jobs away from older employees, then this proposal should be a nonstarter.