Low Wage Workers Getting Older

The New York Time’s The Minimum Wage and the Laws of Economics has some really interesting age related data on low wage workers, which they define as earning less than $10 per hour.

As the chart below (from the article) shows, low wage workers have been getting older and better educated.

Age and wage

One only has to visit a fast food store to see this. Back in the 80’s and 90’s the majority of fast food workers were teens. That’s no longer true.

According to another New York Times article – Life on $7.25 an hour – the demographics of fast food workers is very different than 20-30 years ago. Key quote:

These days, according to the National Employment Law Project, the average age of fast-food workers is 29. Forty percent are 25 or older; 31 percent have at least attempted college; more than 26 percent are parents raising children. Union organizers say that one-third to one-half of them have more than one job — like Mr. Shoy, who is 58 and supports a wife and children.

The reason more older people are working fast food jobs is the polarization of jobs. This is the trend towards increasing numbers of low and high wage jobs coupled with decreasing numbers of middle wage jobs.

Because so many middle wage jobs have disappeared, more workers between the ages of 25 and 64 are turning to low wage jobs.

We’re spending a lot of time on the polarization of jobs. It’s real and it’s having a major economic impact.  We’ve even created a job polarization categorybecause we’re writing about it so much.

Expect to see and hear much more about income inequality, living wages, minimum wage increases and unfair labor practices in the coming months.

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