The minimum wage once again is in the news, here in Indiana and in many places around the nation. Much of the rhetoric about the costs and benefits of the minimum wage is pure bunk, so policymakers, business leaders and residents have use for some honest discussion of the matter. There are four major points to be made.
First, life as an adult minimum wage worker is tough, but not because of salaries. About one in 100 adults aged 25 or older in the labor force is a true minimum wage worker. By comparison, about 15 of every 100 adults in the labor force are functionally illiterate, eight have not graduated high school, a half-dozen are mentally ill and another half-dozen chronically abuse drugs or alcohol. There is some overlap here, but I otherwise choose the most conservative estimates.
So, an adult working at minimum wage shows special signs of labor market disfavor. These are people who need vast amounts of both public and private help, but it is not labor markets that are to blame.