Unemployed teens highlight problem with minimum-wage laws

Victor Joecks


Ideas have consequences. And for kids like Jacqueline Duarte, the consequences of minimum wage laws (both state and federal) are to price her right out of employment

It comes as no shock to Jacqueline Duarte that the employment rate among youths is the lowest since World War II. 

The 17-year-old Valley High School senior, who earns A's and B's, has applied at McDonald's, El Pollo Loco, Target and just about every entry-level job source she can find, to no avail. 

"I'm competing with adults now," she said, concluding that her grades don't matter because other applicants have experience. 

That is a conclusion researchers also have reached in explaining why the number of working 16- to 24-year-olds in the United States has been cut nearly in half since 2000. About 6.5 million youths in that age group were both out of school and out of work in 2011, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation's youth and work report. 

That list of 6.5 million doesn't include Duarte, who is still in school. But if she can't land a job to start saving money for college, she may join those who are out of school and jobless. She also wants to help her mom with the bills.

As Milton Friedman noted many years ago, minimum wage laws harm the very people they're intended to help