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Sharpton on Wage Increase for Black Workers: More Important to Have Higher Minimum Wages

Published on February 22, 2014 · Filed Under Uncategorized 

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by Breanna Deutsch

(WASHINGTON) The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has already found that the minimum wage increase President Barack Obama touted to Democratic governors Friday is likely to reduce employment.

Could it also have a disparate impact on minority groups?

Al Sharpton at the National Action Network American Jobs Act March in October 2011, Photo by TonyTheTiger/Wikimedia Commons.

Al Sharpton doesn’t think so. When he appeared at the White House earlier this week, he said, “What must be weighed in any analysis, CBO and others, is that blacks suffer disproportionately from having to do work and not get the kind of wages that we need.”

Some economists think otherwise. They point to a 2011 Employment Policies Institute study concluding that past minimum wages have hurt black employment prospects the most.

After collecting employment data from 1994 to 2010 and analyzing over 600,000 data observations, the authors’ found that each 10 percent increase in a federal or state minimum wage over the time period decreased employment for black males between the ages of 16 and 24 by 6.5 percent.

Other groups were adversely impacted by the wage hikes, but not as severely. White males within this age group experienced a 2.5 percent fall in employment and Hispanics in the same age category saw a 1.2 percent decline.

minimum_wage.gifThis Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report was prepared in response to interest expressed by a
number of Members of Congress. Click image to view entire document.

When amassing data for this study, the researchers took into account the jobs that were lost due to the severe economic downturn.

Approximately 34,300 young black adults lost their job due to the recession. Another 26,400 lost their job during the same time period due to hikes in the minimum wage.

The results of the study were even more startling when the authors looked at job losses for young black males in the 21 states that experienced the full increase from $5.15 to $7.25 in three stages in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

An estimated 13,200 young black adults in these states lost their job as a consequence of the recession. Federal wage bumps led to 18,500 lost jobs for this same age group during that time.

Previous research along these lines caused Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman to call the minimum wage “one of the most, if not the most, anti-black laws on the statute books.”

But at the White House event, Sharpton said it was more important to have higher wages.

“It’s not just having a job; but having wages that are guaranteed to provide for our families,” he remarked. “We had full employment in the black community during slavery. We just didn’t have wages. So we don’t want just a job, we want a job that pays, and pays so that we can take care of our families.”

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