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Evidence Before Their Very Eyes

Here’s a letter that I sent a couple of days ago to the New York Times:

While Howard and Sheri Schultz deserve applause for spearheading an effort, through the Opportunities Initiative, to improve teenagers’ employment prospects, the same cannot be said of their op-ed in your pages today (“Connecting Young People With Jobs”).

Not once in their essay do the Schultzes mention the most likely reason why so many inner-city American teens never find jobs: the minimum wage.

Yes, yes; I’m aware that some empirical studies support Progressives’ belief that the minimum wage does not destroy jobs.  But I’m also aware of many empirical studies that find that minimum-wage legislation does indeed destroy jobs, especially for inner-city teens.  So even ignoring the fact that these latter findings are more trustworthy because they are more consistent with basic economic theory, the very existence of the problem that the Schultzes rightly bemoan – namely, unusually low labor-force participation by teens – is a powerful reason for Progressives to start to question their faith that minimum-wage legislation is no barrier to teen employment.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030