Getting that first job used to be a rite of passage for every teenager. But far fewer teens have been working recently, and not always by choice. George Mason University just released a study of why so few 16-and-17-year-olds have joined the work force since 2000. The reasons include competition for jobs by immigrants and the pressure to excel academically while racking up tons of extracurricular credits, leaving no time for an after-school job.

But the most significant factor is the campaign to raise the minimum wage. It’s pushing teenagers out of the work force because employers won’t pay up to $15 an hour for a young, inexperienced worker. The extra cost means business owners are also cutting training programs that benefit workers down the road, and reducing job opportunities for all workers, not just teens. The study also found that in states with higher minimum wages, teens who do have jobs get slower pay increases.


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I hate to see this trend, and not because I don’t want hard-working people to get a raise (my dad was a mechanic and fireman, my mother a clerk at a gas company, and I got my first job at 14.) But when government artificially inflates the cost of labor, it forces small businesses to cut jobs and hours, reject inexperienced newcomers, and replace unskilled workers with automation. In some cases, businesses just go out of business, leaving everyone out of work (“We’re from the government and we’re here to help you!”)

While I think the inflated minimum wage campaign is well-intentioned but wrongheaded, I feel the same way about the pressure on kids to pad their school records with extracurricular activities instead of taking after-school and summer jobs. The experience, lessons and work habits I gained from those early jobs (not “dead-end” jobs, but “starter jobs” or “entry-level jobs”) are things that I still use every day and that made a major contribution to all my success later in life. No offense, but I don’t know if you could say the same thing about soccer practice, mime class or the Dungeons & Dragons Club.

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Comments 1-6 of 6

  • Steve Abernathy

    03/02/2018 11:57 AM

    Another plus for aggressive deportation of illegals: more job openings in residential landscaping and lawn care for those out-of-work teen burger flippers. Boom.

  • Barbara Ferguson

    03/01/2018 09:07 PM

    In 1981 we began Youth Employment Service in Clovis, NM. For over 3 years we had opportunity to train teens in how to interview for a job and the dependability and integrity necessary to keep it. Unfortunately when the minimum wage law was passed, YES died. People were willing to give youth a chance to gain experience if they could hire them for the same amount they would pay an experienced worker. But since the inexperienced often worked slower, if they were paid just a little less per hour, it would end up being the same amount. But with minimum wage, they'd have to pay more.

    Another problem with minimum wage is that the cost of living varies throughout the country.

  • Anne Turner

    03/01/2018 08:59 PM

    Economics 101. Too bad more people don’t take it. At one time an after school job looked good on a college application. It shows a degree of ambition and responsibility. I had a job in a dress shop. It was not long before I was the one who had the combination to the cash drawer and took the money to the bank. When I started the job, I made some mistakes, but I learned.

    PS: I heard you were dismissed from the Board of a country music organization because you do not believe in gay marriage. What a sad thing that our society cannot tolerate differences of opinion.

  • Dawn Street

    03/01/2018 08:24 PM

    I encouraged my 5 children to take part-time jobs to purchase their first cars and to learn good work habits. When my son received an appointment to West Point, the recruiter they sent made light of his work ethics, his promotions to become a shift supervisor while still in high school and his purchase of a nice Dodge pickup truck, his pride and joy. He did not get the appointment because he did not play football, he was not minority and he did not do a lot of community service. He was a straight A student, National Honor Society, etc. but the Hispanic female recruiter shot him down. Discrimination even at West Point and the other military colleges. Left a very bad taste in my mouth!!

  • Lynn Hoyt

    03/01/2018 01:57 PM

    Gov, there is one other asspect to this higher wage, no job for teens in CA. They have put into place a law that doesn't allow hire for anyone under the age of 18!!! Another lovely liberal law that will just put more kids in trouble.

  • Kathy Hamilton-Dix

    03/01/2018 12:12 PM

    I was 14 years old and my Dad pulled up in front of the local Red Hen Drive-In and said , " Go in there and get a job".
    I said, " But Dad, I'm only 14 and I think you have to be 15 ". Dad said, " Then tell them your 15 ! ". That job started my
    work ethics and I am 69 years old and have worked every day since. What teen-agers are missing today is creating this lack
    of moral ethics , loyalty to others , focus and growing up experiences. I say, " Build the wall, stop giving America to mis-named
    Dreamers that care nothing about our country."