When standing in line at McDonald’s or Burger King and suffering a 10-minute wait for a simple cheeseburger and fries, it is easy to dismiss protestors and national campaigns to raise the minimum wage to $15, which many have advocated in recent months.
Seeing a disrespectful absent-minded teenager with acne at the cash register, oblivious to the line of customers in front of him, only further aggravates the situation.
However, a new statistic by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), pointed out by a website called Raise the Minimum Wage, suggests most of the minimum wage workers, prevalent especially in the fast-food industry, are not the greasy-faced youth many imagine, but rather adults who may rely on the job as their primary source of income.
According to BLS, about half of the workers in the country earning federal minimum wage of $7.25 or less are 25 years old or older and roughly three-fourths of minimum wage workers are at least 20 years old — no longer teenagers and old enough to be considered independent by much of society.
Not only is this growing demographic making minimum wage, but they are doing so at less than 30 hours a week, which would amount to a rough $11,330 salary before taxes — and that is if they do work close to 30 hours.
Though that salary is problematic as only a small fraction of cost of living, even without paying student loans and credit card debt, it is also problematic because it avoids the requirement in the Affordable Care Act which requires employers provide health care for full-time workers that work more than 30 hours a week.
While the belief that the minimum wage workers are just teenagers who don’t need financial stability is a sound one, the country’s job market and this new rise in older minimum wage earners paints a different picture — one that begs voters and lawmakers to reconsider their stereotypical views of minimum wage.
Currently in discussion is a $10.10-per-hour option that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, could potentially raise about 900,000 people above the poverty threshold and boost average family income by about 3 percent.
Getting paid $15 per hour is still a ludicrous rate for a 16-year-old burger flipper, even if it does benefit the hard-working 25-year-old cashier struggling in the job market. However, there should be more support for comprise and raising minimum wage to something in the middle.
Alex Rosenthal is sophomore majoring in mass communications.