Starting at around the 1:27 mark in this two-minute-long video in which he calls for the national minimum wage in the U.S. to be more than doubled to $15 per hour, former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich – dismissing with a contemptuous tone those who point out otherwise – claims that “about half of minimum-wage workers are 35 or older.”
According to this figure that appears in this December 2013 report from the Pew Research Center, the percentage of minimum-wage workers who are 35 or older is about 29. That’s less than a third and, hence, not remotely close to “about half.” (In fact, “about half” – 51% – of workers earning the minimum wage haven’t yet celebrated their 25th birthday.)
These data from Pew are consistent with those found in Table 1 of this more recent report (April 2015) from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. In this BLS report we learn that 48.2 percent of all workers who earn the minimum wage or less are under the age of 25 (and 21.4 percent of minimum-wage-or-less workers are still teenagers!). And from Table 7 we learn that the percent of minimum-wage workers age 35 or older is 29.4 – again, less than one-third of all minimum-wage workers.
Note also, from the BLS report, that only 2.5 percent of all workers age 25 or older earn the minimum wage or less – meaning that the percentage of workers 35 years or older who earn hourly wage so low is even smaller. So the notion that the economy is filled with lots of older workers trying to raise families on minimum-wage pay is simply false.
(The above is updated in light of Jon Murphy’s comment. I somehow – carelessly is the ‘somehow’ – originally missed Table 7 in the BLS report – a Table that further strengthens my point.)