When the subject of the minimum wage does come up, we are told of all the people who try to support their families on such low wages. Just recently, McDonald’s was criticized for publishing a budget chart for their employees that included a second job. What isn’t mentioned by the critics of the minimum wage amount is that minimum wage jobs aren’t meant to be careers nor intended to be able to feed and house a family of four comfortably. They are stepping-stone jobs. You’re supposed to move on or move up. But how many people does this really affect?
According to the Department of Labor 75,276,000 people who are paid hourly, only 1,566,000 earn minimum wage, and another 1,984,000 earn less than minimum wage due to legal exemptions such as waitstaff and bartenders, students who are enrolled full-time among others. This translates to approximately 2% of hourly workers are at minimum wage.
Of minimum wage earners:
- 64.4% of minimum wage earners work only part-time (42.2% work less than 25 hours per week).
- 36.3% have less than a high school diploma, 30.3% are high school graduates only, 25% have some college, 4.7% have an Associates degree, 3.3% have a Bachelor’s degree, 0.4% have a Master’s degree, and 0.1% have a Doctoral degree.
- 77.7% are White, 15% are Black, and 20.2% are Hispanic.
- 50.6% are aged 16-24, and 20.7% are aged 50 and older.
- 49.3% are men, and 50.7% are women.
- 65.2% have never been married, 20.6% are married with their spouse present.
Essentially, the young who are just starting out in the workforce and the elderly who work part time, often to fill their day, make up the bulk of all minimum wage earners (71.3%). 66.3% have only high school degrees or less. And it seems that only around 1 out of 5 minimum wage earners are adults helping to run a family household (approximately 313,200, or .001% of the total American population).
There will always be low skill, high turnover jobs which pay the minimum. It’s important to keep in mind that this is not a statement about the worker, it is a statement about the nature of the work. A medical doctor who works at McDonald’s will earn minimum wage right next to the high school drop out.