Public News Service
BOSTON – A new study from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center says raising the minimum wage has little impact on teen unemployment, but can have a big impact on teens and their families.
On Monday, 18 states saw their minimum wages increase, but Massachusetts wasn’t among them.
A bill in the state legislature would raise the minimum to $15 an hour by 2021, and if that fails, the issue could be on the ballot in November.
And while teens are only 12 percent of minimum wage workers in the state, Noah Berger, president of the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, says for many, it would mean a boost for their entire family.
“Those 12 percent who are teenagers, their income is an important part, very often, of their family income, of being able to help their family to pay for basic necessities,” he points out.
The study found that working teens in families with total earnings below $47,000 a year bring in almost 18 percent of the family income.
Opponents of raising the minimum wage maintain it would put many teens out of work.
A $15 minimum would raise the pay of almost 90 percent of teenage workers.
Berger says that would be especially helpful to students.
“Eighty percent of the college and university students in Massachusetts are working, and 60 percent are working more than 20 hours a week,” he states.
Berger says other research has shown students who work more than 20 hours a week get lower grades and are less likely to graduate.
Berger notes a number of studies have shown that raising the minimum has little or no impact on teen employment levels, and the experience in Massachusetts bears that out.
“After a couple of years of significant minimum wage increases, we actually have the lowest level of teen unemployment that we’ve had in a long time – that is, more teens are working,” he stresses.
The study found that overall economic trends have a much bigger impact on teen employment rates than minimum wage hikes.