(Invictus here, ladies and gents):

Shortly after the minimum wage was raised last year, the right-wing chorus rose up and began to assert that the rise in teen unemployment was directly attributable to the more generous pay scale.  To my eye, and based on numbers I’d crunched, I thought demographics were much more at play (note: that’s “much more,” not “exclusively”), and said so here last September:

There is evidence – real, actual evidence! – that it’s the 55+ age cohort staying in – or re-entering – the job market that is much more at play than the minimum wage…Where there had been less than 2.5 workers 55+ per teen worker in the year 2000, that number has now jumped to a record 5.5…As a percent of the workforce, the 55+ age cohort has now reached a new record of 19.4%, clear evidence that older workers are squeezing younger workers from the workforce.

and here last November:

…simple demographics coupled with the damage wrought by this recession on the Baby Boom generation — in terms of both real estate and investment portfolios (particularly retirement portfolios) — is so great that many Boomers have realized they’re going to have to postpone retirement (see one story on that here, there are thousands on “postponing retirement” out there on The Google).

I reiterated that position here at TBP last month when illegal immigrants became the target of choice for stealing teen employment:

What about demographics — an aging boomer population — and a crappy economy that has  the 55+ cohort postponing retirement and consequently crowding out the younger generation (parents keeping their own kids/grandkids out of the job market, as I put it a while back).  The data is there for all who choose to explore it.

Well, now comes Bloomberg news with this:

Workers Over 65 Vie With Teens in Labor Market for First Time Since Truman

U.S. employees old enough to retire are outnumbering their teenage counterparts for the first time since at least 1948 when Harry Truman was president, a sign of how generations are now having to compete for jobs.

Bloomberg provides some very cool interactive features (that are way beyond my capabilities and definitely worth checking out).

I guess the facts continue to have a well-known liberal bias.

(Notes:  A BLS study – “As the baby-boom generation ages, the share of workers in the 55-years-and-older age group will increase dramatically…” — analyzed this trend in detail here (.pdf) last November, thankfully after I’d already written about it.  Also, this demographics angle was recently picked up by the NY Times Economix blog via the San Francisco Chronicle (which cited Bloomberg, closing the loop), but you did read it here — or other places I’ve written about it — first.)

Category: Economy, Employment, Markets, Politics

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

59 Responses to “Demographic Story Coming to the Fore”

  1. TDL says:

    This is a very interesting trend. It does articulate how hard economic conditions are in the U.S. relative to what we are used to. However, are you implying that the minimum wage does not increase the cost of labor or are you simply dealing with this specific trend (where you happened to see evidence that contradicted a specific argument)?


  2. Invictus says:


    I would never argue that increasing the minimum wage does not increase the cost of labor. I don’t think I could win that argument.

    What I have seen — and I’m certainly no expert in this area — is at best a mixed bag of research as to the extent to which increases in the minimum wage influence teen employment/unemployment. Similarly, we will likely never be able to quantify exactly how influential our demographic trends are (or the exact effects of the recession), but we do know — because the Boomer generation is so clearly defined — that its influence is greater now than it’s ever been and will continue to grow for years to come.

  3. TDL says:

    Very good points. Thank you for the clarification.


  4. weimdog says:

    “when illegal immigrants became the target of choice”

    Are you suggeting that 20 million illegal immigrants have no effect on teen unemployment?

  5. flipspiceland says:

    Actually, there are a great many jobs that teenagers CAN do that they simply will not do.

    Teens in our neighborhood don’t do a blessed thing all summer, most just hang out. A few Duddy Kravitz types will work for $25.00 an hour to house sit.

    I could put ten teens to work right now, but just try and get them to volunteer to work.

    Sorry but that demographic leaves out one very important fact: teens by and large would rather play than get their hands dirty. Millions of teen-friendly jobs are available, invictus, WADR.

  6. Fitgerald says:

    So the 55+ job candidates are outcompeting the teens? Things would even out if the boomers just called in sick a bit more, or just not show up for work, or show up late, and spend time talking on a cell phone.

    If these struggling teens want a competitive advantage then maybe revisiting the Reagan era proposal of a separate minimum wage is a possibility. Working cheap is better than not working at all, thats capitalism.

  7. jack says:

    as a father of two teenagers, i can anecdotally testify that the labor market is tough out there for them. i also agree with you that the demographics and the recession seem to have a more dominant effect on the teen unemployment rate right now, as opposed to the increase in the minimum wage. in fact, the bloomberg article seems to suggest that the overall teen population seems to be declining over the last decade, which i imagine would bolster your argument.
    that being said, i do believe you are wise in stating that you cannot win the argument that it does not increase labor costs, and i think i would also add that it would be difficult to argue that an increase has zero effect on teen unemployment. the government has the ability to increase the minimum wage. but until it also has the ability to legislate what a restaurant charges for a hamburger, and then dictate how many workers he needs to employ to create that hamburger, then we are in a situation where the owner has to pay at least a certain wage, but doesn’t necessarily have to hire someone at that wage. most restaurant owners will suck it up and keep the same amount of workers, but there will be some at the margins who will not. in the end, i believe that the minimum wage hikes are a feel good washington exercise that benefits many but hurts a few. we have bigger problems in this world that we need to work on.

  8. It stands to reason too. The boomers have stolen everything that isn’t nailed down from their kids through borrowing. It is not a surprise that they would also steal their jobs.

    Note to kids:

    When dad goes after your girlfriend with his new pack of viagra that you purchased for him I would draw the gun at that point. That is assuming dad hasn’t taken that from you too.

  9. Invictus says:


    Are you suggeting that 20 million illegal immigrants have no effect on teen unemployment?

    I don’t believe I suggested that at all, and if you believe I did, then I think you misread my post.

  10. ashpelham2 says:

    I have a child that is 10 going on 11. Well, she thinks she’s going on 21, but I digress.

    I started working back when I was 16, which was the legal age at that time to hold a paying job in Alabama. I worked about 15 hours a week, which didn’t impede what little social life I had at all. I worked about 3-4 4 hour shifts per week. I did that until I was out of high school, when i started working a bit more, about 20 hours per week, until I graduated from college.

    My comment is how does one determine if their teen even NEEDS to work? I got a job because my dad thought it would be a good idea to learn that level of responsibility, but I had no bills, because they gave me a car (a lovely 1985 Olds Cutlass Supreme Bro-ham, 6 years old at that time). I’m not saying that my pre-teen doesn’t need the money, or won’t need it. We all need it. But I just see the importance of excelling in your studies as being so much more important now, with scholarships on the line, than some dumpy 15 hour per week job sacking groceries.

    I hope my financial picture is better then, but I don’t have HIGH hopes. I’d like for her to be able to skip the job market for a while.

  11. DeDude says:

    The idea that somehow a dollar difference in minimum wage will prevent someone from hire a new employee is obvious BS. If the work has to be done you have to hire someone to do it (even if at a dollar more per hour than last month). If the work does not need to be done you don’t hire someone. Nobody with a business have time to do another 40 hour of the type of work that can be done by a minimum wager (i.e. not hire someone to do needed work, because it cost another dollar per hour). If the work does not have to be done you don’t hire someone regardless of the minimum wage. The only way minimum wage increases influence employment is by helping with redistribution of wealth and giving more money to the class that consumes everything they earn – and that gives a boast to an economy that is 70% consumption.

  12. pschaeffer says:


    The decline in teen employment is very real and is related to immigration (legal and illegal). Of course, the current economic downturn has made the situation worse, but it predates the current recession by many, many years. A few data points should show this.

    Teen Labor Force Participation

    1994 64%
    2000 61%
    2007 48%
    2009 45%

    So you can seen that we are not really talking about the current downturn, but a long term trend driven mostly (but not entirely) by immigration. See

    “A Drought of Summer Jobs: Immigration and the Long-Term Decline in Employment Among U.S.-Born Teenagers ”


    Follow the link and you get the details. Note the dialogue between the CIS folks and EPI.

    I quote

    “The share of U.S.-born teenagers (16 to 19) in the labor force — working or looking for work — during the summer has been declining for more than a decade, long before the current recession. In 1994, nearly two-thirds of U.S.-born teenagers were in the summer labor force; by 2007 it was less than half. At the same time, the overall number of immigrants (legal and illegal) holding a job doubled. The evidence indicates that immigration accounts for a significant share of the decline in teen labor force participation. The decline in teen work is worrisome because research shows that those who do not hold jobs as teenagers often fail to develop the work habits necessary to function in the labor market, creating significant negative consequences for them later in life.

    Among the findings:

    * The summer of 2009 was the worst summer ever experienced by U.S.-born teenagers (16-19) since citizenship data was first collected in 1994. Just 45 percent were in the labor force, which means they worked or were looking for work. Only one-third actually held a job.

    * Even before the current recession, the summer labor force participation of U.S.-born teenagers was deteriorating. Between the summers of 1994 and 2000, a period of significant economic expansion, the labor force participation of U.S.-born teens actually declined from 64 percent to 61 percent.

    * After 2000, the summer labor force participation of U.S.-born teenagers declined from 61 percent to 48 percent by 2007. Thus even before the current recession fewer teens were in the labor force.

    * Teen unemployment — the share looking for a job — has also tended to rise somewhat over time. But the big decline has been in the share of teenagers who are looking for work.

    * The number of U.S.-born teenagers not in the labor force increased from 4.7 million in 1994 to 8.1 million in 2007. In the summer of 2009 it stood at 8.8 million.

    * The severity of the decline is similar for U.S.-born black, Hispanic, and white teens. Between 1994 and 2007 the summer labor force participation of black teens declined from 50 to 35 percent; for Hispanic teens from 52 to 37 percent; and for whites it declined 69 to 55 percent.

    * The fall-off is also similar for U.S.-born teenagers from both high- and low-income households.

    * Although a larger share of teens are enrolled in summer school, the fall-off in employment is similar for those in school and those who are not. As a result, the overwhelming majority of the decline in labor force participation would have occurred regardless of the increase in enrollment.

    * Immigrants and teenagers often do the same kind of work. In the summer of 2007, in the 10 occupations employing the most U.S.-born teenagers, one in five workers was an immigrant.

    * Between 1994 and 2007, in occupations where teenage employment declined the most, immigrants made significant job gains.

    * Comparisons across states in 2007 show that in the 10 states where immigrants are the largest share of workers, just 45 percent of U.S.-born teens were in the summer labor force, compared to 58 percent in the 10 states where immigrants are the smallest share of workers.

    * Looking at change over time shows that in the 10 states where immigrants increased the most as a share of workers, labor force participation of U.S.-born teenagers declined 17 percentage points. In the 10 states where immigrants increased the least, teen labor force participation declined 9 percent.

    * We also find that, on average, a 10 percentage-point increase in the immigrant share of a state’s work force from 1994 to 2007 reduced the labor force participation rate of U.S.-born teenagers by 7.9 percentage points.

    * The most likely reason immigrants displace U.S.-born teenagers is that the vast majority of immigrants are fully developed adults — relatively few people migrate before age 20. This gives immigrants a significant advantage over U.S.-born teenagers who typically have much less work experience.

    * The labor force participation of immigrant teenagers has also declined, though it was low even in the early 1990s. This along with the similar decline for U.S.-born teens from all racial and income backgrounds supports the idea that the arrival of so many adult immigrants, who work at the kinds of jobs traditionally done by teenagers, crowds all teenagers out of the labor force, both U.S.-born and foreign-born.

    * Summer is the focus of this report; however, the decline in the employment of U.S.-born teenagers is year-round, including a decline during the other peak period of seasonal employment at Christmas.

    * Although there is good evidence that immigration is reducing teenage labor market participation, other factors have likely also contributed to this problem.

    * One factor that does not explain the decline is an increase in unpaid internships among U.S.-born teenagers.

    * First, 19-year-old high school dropouts show a similar decline as 19-year-olds who attend college — dropouts are very unlikely to be in unpaid internships.

    * Second, 16- and 17-year-olds show the same decline as 18- and 19-year-olds, even though younger teens are much less likely to be in internships.

    * Third, teenagers who come from low-income families show the same decline as teenagers from high-income families. But research shows that unpaid internships are much more common for higher-income teenagers.

    * Fourth, according to Princeton Review’s Internship Bible, there are only about 100,000 internships (paid and unpaid) in the country. The increase in U.S.-born teenagers not in the labor force was 3.4 million between 1994 and 2007.

  13. Thor says:

    Invictus – great post – NPR had a nice story about this topic this morning.

    Are you getting tired of folks putting words in your mouth yet? ;-)

  14. pschaeffer says:

    Any number of people have pointed this out before…

    However, it should be obvious that low skill immigrants (legal and illegal) have skills (or lack thereof) that most closely match teens. Indeed traditional teen employment, and the areas low-skill immigrants are concentrated in, match pretty well. A few examples

    Lawn and yard work
    Low end construction
    Agriculture (before mass immigration summer farm by teens was common)
    Child care

    See “The Big Picture”?

  15. Thor says:

    pschaeffer – Good numbers.

    I have always been struck by the difference in fast food restaurant employment when I travel to other states. In my part of CA (LA) that kind of job is primarily done by immigrants, when I’ve traveled to other states, those jobs are more often than not done by non immigrant teens.

  16. pschaeffer says:

    By the way the demographic story about oldsters competing with teens is only marginally true. Check out the ratio of teens to 55+.

    The actual 55+ population in 2000 was 57.7 million. In 2009 it was 77.67 million. The teen (16-19) population rose from 16 to 17 million. As you can see that ratio was 3.61 in 2000 and 4.57 in 2009.

    The real story is rising 55+ labor force participation (a trend that goes back decades) and crashing teen labor force participation. The latter trend is essentially 2000+ and is closely tied to mass immigration (low-skill particularly) and the poor economy (“jobless recovery”, etc.) after 2000.

    The right wants to point fingers at the minimum wage (which is almost irrelevant) and ignore the elephant in the room (mass immigration). The left wants an excuse to ignore the elephant.

    Time to start talking about the elephant.

  17. Thor says:

    Also – before we go down this “the immigrants are stealing jobs from American Teens” route – let’s put the blame squarely where it belongs; on the American born business owners and managers who hire them.

  18. Thor says:

    pschaeffer – Again, if American Citizens weren’t hiring illegal immigrants by the millions we wouldn’t have this problem. How on Earth can we blame poor people coming here for a better life? If there weren’t jobs waiting for them when the got here, they wouldn’t be coming. This is OUR fault, not the immigrants.

    The elephant in the room is not mass immigration, it’s continued flouting of federal law by AMERICAN CITIZENS

  19. pschaeffer says:


    A couple of notes. My notes are about demographics and the economy, not policy.


    There is nothing wrong with employers hiring legal immigrants, even as direct replacements for teens. It is up to the American people to decide how many legal immigrants we want and can accommodate. A better teen job market is a reasonable argument against low-skill immigration. A key driver of the immigration reforms of 1917, 1921, and 1925 was an effort to create a better job market for blue collar workers. Back then then immigrants were typically employed in manufacturing, not services. Some studies show huge wage growth in industry after mass immigration ended.

    As for hiring illegal workers, of course that is a crime and should be effectively punished, not massively rewarded.

  20. pschaeffer says:


    “The elephant in the room is not mass immigration, it’s continued flouting of federal law by AMERICAN CITIZENS”

    True enough, although you probably meant “lawful residents”. Of course, for an illegal to work in the U.S. they have to violate our border and residency laws and someone has to hire them. Takes two to tango…

    Related note. if you look at construction a significant fraction of the subcontractors who launder illegals for builders, are former illegals.

  21. Thor says:

    pschaeffer -

    Understood and agree. For what it’s worth, I’m in favor of reducing immigration quite a bit, just think many of the folks who are so loudly anti immigrant tend to point fingers in the wrong direction. I apologize for lumping you in with this group – after I just asked Invictus if he was tired of people putting words in his mouth no less!

  22. napster says:

    Pschaeffer and Thor.

    Quoting from the Center for Immigration Studies is like quoting from Goldman Sachs about Stock market legislation. The results are going to be made to justify the pre-existing condition. If you look at the persons who support the CIS, you don’t find one single Democrat or non-partisan independent. All of the supporters are heavily Republican and heavily partisan. N’uff said.

    But that is not enough. The asterisk points you made do not point to the conclusion. Permit me to prove this contention.

    Your statements about teenagers and Immigrants are not always mutually exclusive events. The asterisk point made is that “Between 1994 and 2007, in occupations where teenage employment declined the most, immigrants made significant job gains.” But just because a decrease in teen labor and an increase in immigrant labor occurs in the same sub-group does not mean immigrants are pushing out teens WHEN YOU DO NOT INCLUDE THE EFFECTS OF THE OTHER SUBGROUPS which are also in the labor pool — namely the Seniors.

    The study by the CIS that you source does not even measure the effect of older citizens (not just Seniors) competing with teenagers. The study only measures two subgroups — US citizen teens vs. Immigrants — and ignores everything else.

    Looking at Table A-9 of the CIS study, the row labeled “Food servers, non-restaurant(35-3041),” the numbers given are teens:25 immigrants:39 TOTAL:198. 198 – 25 – 39 = 134 OTHER WORKERS that are not included in this study. THE STUDY IGNORES 67% of the population.

    The study you are using to make your contention is worthless because there is not way to conclude that teenagers are being driven out by immigrants when the study ignores 67% of the population.

    If there is a chemical composed of 12 molecules, focusing on only 2 and ignoring the other 10 molecules is not going to be very helpful.

  23. curbyourrisk says:

    My kids are too young for work….but I have nieces and nephews who can’t find work. My 2 nephews agted 15 and 16 went to the local McDonalds and were told thery were only hiring for the late shift (til 2 am). Same at the new Shop n Stop, and the Waldbaums. They went to the local Walgreens and were told all positions were filled. The average age of the employees there (during the day) is well over 55. I am paying my niece to watch our 2 kids during the day, doing my part. But these kids are screwed right now. My nephew is trying to save up for a car that would allow him to increase his work area. There is only so far you can go on a bike.

    I blame Obama…..just because I want to!

  24. pschaeffer says:


    I would like to point you to a study published a few years ago “Los Angeles and its Immigrants” (http://www.international.metropolis.net/research-policy/losang/chapt3_e.html). A quote will give you the picture

    ” Consequently, the terms of compensation at the bottom of L.A.’s economy got worse over the past two decades: between 1970 and 1990, real earnings in the Mexican immigrant industrial niches declined by over $6,000. The downturn is not simply a matter of exchanging bad jobs for worse: real earnings also declined in all of the industries that served as Mexican niches in 1970, before the massive immigration truly began. Contributors to the combination of demographic and economic changes that gave the region a more unequal wage structure in 1990 than it had 20 years before, Mexicans and other Latino immigrants were also its victims: applying 1970 quintile levels to the 1990 distributions shows that 29 percent of Latino immigrant earners fell into the bottom quintile in 1970, but 42 percent languished there two decades later. ”

    Is that data “anti-immigrant” or “anti-immigration”? Of late “anti-immigrant” tends to be the cover phrase used to attack anyone who challenges the orthodoxy on mass immigration.

  25. napster says:

    Don’t blame the face you see (0r want to see) without doing anything to understand the underlying cause.

    This is not Obama’s fault.

  26. napster says:


    The study you are using to make your contention is worthless because there is not way to conclude that teenagers are being driven out by immigrants when the study ignores 67% of the population.

    If there is a chemical composed of 12 molecules, focusing on only 2 and ignoring the other 10 molecules is not going to be very helpful.

    Why are you ignoring my critique?

  27. pschaeffer says:


    “If you look at the persons who support the CIS, you don’t find one single Democrat or non-partisan independent. All of the supporters are heavily Republican and heavily partisan.”

    Wow is that far off. Go to http://www.cis.org/about and check out the list of directors. Several are well known Democrats. One example would be Frank Morris.

    “Frank Morris is the former Executive Director of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and former Dean of Graduate Studies at Morgan State University. “

  28. napster says:

    pschaeffer says: “Of late “anti-immigrant” tends to be the cover phrase used to attack anyone who challenges the orthodoxy on mass immigration.”

    What you said is not true. I am criticizing the CIS study not because it is “anti-immigrant”. That phrase was not once in any of the sentences I used in my criticism.

    The study you are using to make your contention is worthless because there is not way to conclude that teenagers are being driven out by immigrants when the study ignores 67% of the population.

    If there is a chemical composed of 12 molecules, focusing on only 2 and ignoring the other 10 molecules is not going to be very helpful.

    Is that too hard to understand?

  29. napster says:


    You are a funny guy. Consult the following link


    Frank Morris has never been a congress person or legislator. The “Congressional Black Caucus Foundation” has nothing to do with the Congress or the Congressional Black Caucus.

    From Wikipedia, which lists the two groups separately:

    “The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc. (CBCF) conducts research on issues affecting African Americans, publishes a yearly report on key legislation, and sponsors issue forums, leadership seminars and scholarships. Although linked with the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation is a separate nonprofit group that runs programs in education, healthcare and economic development.”


  30. Invictus says:


    According to SourceWatch, here’s what we know about the founder of the Center for Immigration Studies, John Tanton:

    John Tanton M.D. is “publisher of The Social Contract ( designated as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center[1]) and served as editor for its first 8 years. He is a retired eye surgeon whose boyhood on a farm made him into an ardent conservationist and advocate for the environment. His conviction that continued human population growth was a large part of the conservation problem led him to chair the National Sierra Club Population Committee (1971-74), and to the national board of Zero Population Growth (1973-78, including a term as president, 1975-77).

    In 1979, Tanton shifted his focus towards fighting immigration to reduce the U.S. population, and organized the anti-immigrant Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) based in Washington, D.C. Since then, Tanton has formed, funded, or otherwise been affiliated with many prominent anti-immigration organizations, in what has been termed the John Tanton Network. [2]

    A fine, upstanding citizen, eh?

  31. Invictus says:

    Oh, one more thing:

    The Southern Poverty Law Center reports that Tanton has long been linked to racist ideas– “fretting about the “educability” of Latinos, warning of whites being out-bred by others, and publishing a number of white nationalist authors”– and is also closely affiliated with a number of white supremacist organizations such as the Pioneer Fund. [3]

  32. pschaeffer says:


    Check above. Thor used the phrase “anti-immigrant”. I was replying to him.

    Don’t use chemistry analogies. Check out thiophenol (CAS 108-98-5). The Thio group is only two atoms. However, they account for most of the chemical reactivity of the molecule.

  33. napster says:


    I admit my criticism of persons who support CIS might be a tiny bit inaccurate. Yet even still, being a Democrat is no guarantee of a person’s integrity. This point is also irrelevant to the larger critique.

    My main criticism is this: The study you are using to make your contention is worthless because there is not way to conclude that teenagers are being driven out by immigrants when the study ignores 67% of the population.

  34. ironman says:

    The problem with the demographic “story” is that it doesn’t explain 2007, when the first of the most recent series of hikes in the minimum wage took effect. (Considering only the most recent minimum wage increase in 2009 could very well qualify as cherry-picking data where considering the effects of minimum wage increases are concerned – anyone starting with that data would be conflating the effects of continued minimum wage increases with those of the recession, which began as economic growth and employment peaked in December 2007.) Here’ s the real economic detective story:

    Part 1: Natural Causes, or Not?

    Part 2: Victim Autopsy

    Part 3: Lining Up the Suspects

    Part 4: Prime Suspect Revealed

    Part 5: A Final Gruesome Discovery

    Aftermath: A Late Night Call

    The BLS has revised the data since this analysis was done back in January 2009, actually making the case stronger.

    We should also note that the employment data from this year indicates that teens were disproportionately much more likely to be hired than older workers, up until the job market began stalling out again in May. That’s exactly what we should expect to see after the typical 6-month adjustment period for employers following the last of a series of minimum wage increases.

  35. pschaeffer says:

    “Frank Morris has never been a congress person or legislator. The “Congressional Black Caucus Foundation” has nothing to do with the Congress or the Congressional Black Caucus.”

    From “About CBCF ” (http://www.cbcfinc.org/about-cbcf.html)

    “CBCF’s influence extends to African-American intellectuals and others focused on policy and legislative issues. Each September, thousands of elected officials and industry leaders, celebrities, media, emerging leaders and everyday Americans come to Washington, D.C., for the organization’s Annual Legislative Conference (ALC). The conference features participation by the Congressional Black Caucus and includes dozens of policy forums, general sessions, exhibits, a job fair, book signings and vast networking opportunities. “

  36. napster says:

    pschaeffer says : “Don’t use chemistry analogies. Check out thiophenol (CAS 108-98-5). The Thio group is only two atoms. However, they account for most of the chemical reactivity of the molecule.”

    I don’t understand why you think this refutes anything that I’ve said.

    My main criticism is this: The study you are using to make your contention is worthless because there is not way to conclude that teenagers are being driven out by immigrants when the study ignores 67% of the population.

    If there are 5 sub-groups competing for jobs, we can’t understand what is going on when we only look at 2 of these 5 groups, especially when the remaining 3 groups not being measured make up 67% of the population.

  37. jack says:

    “The idea that somehow a dollar difference in minimum wage will prevent someone from hire a new employee is obvious BS. If the work has to be done you have to hire someone to do it (even if at a dollar more per hour than last month).”

    i agree – most would eat it, like i mentioned in my post. my point is that a small percentage would not, and decide to shift the work to existing employees, do it themselves, drop that service, or at the extreme, decided it is best to close shop.

    if the the ultimate goal of this policy is to redistribute wealth and create a consumption multiplier(i am not necessarily disagreeing with either premise), then why not just increase it to 20 bucks an hour? how many mcdonald’s franchises would still remain profitable paying all of their folks $20 an hour?

    obviously that would be extreme, but i use it to stress my point that the effect is not zero.

    in addition, it is a very inefficient form of wealth distibutor, as it targets less than 2.5% of the population (the amount of people people in this country who are paid minimum wage or less), and only penalizes those industries that hire minimum wage workers.

  38. napster says:


    You quote above really doesn’t prove your contention.

    Whether “CBCF’s influence extends to” whomever, or if thousands of persons and “everyday Americans” come to the organization’s Annual Legislative Conference (ALC) every September … DOES NOT MEAN the two groups are related. They may indeed discuss and get involved in similar issues, but The Congressional Black Congress Foundation is a separate, non-Congressional organization.

  39. Deflator Mouse says:

    Its all demographics. Let’s look at some numbers:
    According to Wikipedia (I know, I know), there are about 11.5M Illegal immigrants in the US as of 2006 (this number includes children and teens). Between 2000 and 2006, this number has been increasing by 0.5M/year. It is not clear what fraction of these are in the labor force.

    According to the BLS study cited by Invictus, the number of workers age 55+ grew by over 1M/year between 1998 and 2008.

    So its at least 2-1 in favor of the 55+ crowd. If you can call postponing retirement a favor.

  40. Stephen says:

    Let’s see, there are increasing numbers of boomers, increasing numbers of teens, increasing numbers of immigrants, and 55+ skilled, mature, citizen, hard working people are ‘squeezing out the teens’ and this is another great partisan poke in the eye for the run of the mill Big Picture post and discussion.

    Note how quickly this discussion degenerated to a partisan pissing match? The place looks more and more like the Democratic Underground every day.

    Will somebody please tell Barry, Invictus et. al. that this is actually one of the most partisan places that I read? Scream and yell at me that you are not, and that you despise ‘partisanship’ all you want. The most used words on this site are ‘republican’ and ‘right-wing’. Pure partisanship led about by your itching ears.

    Just who is it that you think should have jobs in America? Citizens or foreigners? If your answer is Citizens, we need to limit immigration legal or illegal. We should stop illegal immigration anyway, it’s illegal! In times like now where unemployment is high, we need to stop immigration and send many immigrants home. But a Republican somewhere thinks the same thing, so The BP will argue ad nauseum till their death bed that the numbers actually show that immigrants are not causing any unemployment really. Delusional.

  41. Grunschev says:


    “if the the ultimate goal of this policy is to redistribute wealth and create a consumption multiplier … why not just increase it to 20 bucks an hour?”

    I have found that a majority of folks who make this argument against the minimum wage support the idea that tax revenues are increased by reducing taxes (because reduced taxes creates a consumption multiplier). I’m not suggesting jack falls into that group; he may or may not. But when I hear this argument, I really want to make the same response to the “cut taxes” crowd that the “eliminate the minimum wage” folks make.

    If cutting taxes increases government revenues, why not just cut taxes to zero? That should make government revenues go through the roof!

    Either argument is absurd. Jack realizes this case for the argument he made (“obviously that would be extreme”). So it strikes me as a bit disingenuous to argue against something by making a case that one knows is absurd.

  42. willid3 says:

    are we against anybody making money by working?
    that seems to be what we are saying when we imply that jobs are going way because of minimum wage increased. if thats true, why should any bodies income go up for any reason at all?
    and illegal immigration is driven by jobs in the US, not in their home country. cause its certainly not the benefits, as Mexico has universal health care, so its not that. if we really wanted to stop it, stop whats driving it. costs less than putting 1000s of law enforcement agents on the border, and its a lot more effective. and we all know whats driving is business hiring of illegals.

  43. Jojo says:

    This guy has written a few posts over the last months on teen employment. Here’s one:
    Political Calculations
    July 5, 2010
    The Canary in the U.S. Job Market

    Canary with Coal Miner – Source: US Department of Labor/MSHA We follow the teen jobs scene for one major reason: teens are the most marginal of workers in the U.S. economy. By that, we mean that compared to all older workers, teens are the least educated, least skilled and the most inexperienced members of the U.S. workforce. And unlike older workers, teens can easily disappear from the U.S. workforce, as they often have the option of being full time students while living in their parents’ home if their employment prospects aren’t good.


  44. moonmullins says:

    If a conservative told Barry that you need oxygen to create a fire, he’d deny it. No, he’d say, what you really need are heat and combustible material.

    For the millionth time Barry, just because you’ve found a contributing factor to explain a causal effect doesn’t negate the presence of other contributing factors.

    On one point we do agree, facts are stubborn things.

  45. Invictus says:


    1) There’s a byline
    2) In addition to the byline, because I know it’s too much trouble to expect that people look at it, I introduced the piece by writing “(Invictus here, ladies and gents).” And I italicized it.
    3) The piece was only marginally political — my point being that our demographics are more at play now than they’ve been in the past (i.e. it is more of a contributing factor now than ever before). This is indisputable.
    4) Your inability to determine who wrote the piece makes me question your intelligence and reading comprehension skills. But I tend to find this with some regularity when dealing with closed-minded conservatives who are hell-bent on sticking to their ideologies and preconceived notions of how things must be.

  46. moonmullins says:


    For a piece that is only “marginally poltiical”, I wonder why you took the trouble of making that the lead?

    Like a good conservative, I am the one here who is open to multiple causes of our job problems, and wrote as much. You, by your own post, is the one who is closed-minded, insisting there is one and only one explanation. And who is it that fails at reading comprehension?

    Duly noted that you didn’t dispute my central thesis. Like a good liberal, you stay true to form – when you can’t argue the facts you engage in character assasination.

  47. Herb2 says:

    During the years when the home was an ATM, parents were prosperous and offspring could obtain money from the parents more easily and in larger amounts than they could from an employer. Arguments about immigration practices aside and generalizations are full of exceptions, but older workers lived in a different environment and often needed to work just to have school clothes and haircut money. Work wasn’t a foreign concept and having hundreds (thousands?) of dollars and hours to spend on mp3 players and text messaging phones wasn’t an option. Prosperity is wonderful. It doesn’t provide everyone meaningful employment in their field of choice, but who wants their children to have to work in the fields?

  48. napster says:

    The forces of xenophobia want to distract the middle class from the culprits of our current economic situation. However, immigrants are neither the reason nor the driving force behind the pressures in the current labor market.

    As the title of this blog attests, studies are conclusively indicating that this pressure is coming from older workers competing with lower level employment positions.

    Furthermore, there has actually been an increase in the numbers of immigrants who are returning abroad, which indicative of the job pressure.

    Teen employment is also under stress, but we cannot conclude that this is due to the competition with immigrants because the data is not consistent with this assumption. The CIS study mentioned by pschaeffer does not prove this assertion because:

    1) that study only selectively looks at data,
    2) that study only looks at 2 subgroups (teens vs. immigrants) and ignores 67% of the population,
    3) that study also does not show the results over a period of time (even 5 years).


    What we call a teenager assumes teenagers are completely separate from immigrants, when the case may very well be a teenager could be an immigrant or not depending on the status of the parents. Some immigrant teenagers may also not be enrolled in high school, or may be living in the United States alone without their parents. Although these overlaps are real and should not be discounted, I have no data to say how large or small these conjunctions might be.

    Nevertheless, a teenager who is trying to earn leisure income because they are living with parents who pay all the remaining living expenses IS NOT THE SAME THING as someone who needs the job to pay their living expenses. Teens who live at home, or are college-bound, have other options and will not be homeless and starving if they don’t get a job.

    So … if the pressure in the labor market becomes influenced by a lot of older workers losing their jobs, the numbers of teen employment is probably going to decrease dramatically. The pressures on the immigrant population would also cause an increase in the number of immigrants returning back out of country, but not as much because their options are unlike live-at-home teenagers.

    Blaming the immigrants is a classic reaction by the scurrilous elite. The rise of the “Know Nothing” Tea Party movement has a lot to do with the need for a distraction from the issues of the day which benefit the elite. In the case of the “Know Nothing” movement in the early 1850′s, the distraction was meant to lose focus on the corruption of government by financial elites and the Slave-istocracy. It was at this time that the Party System of Whigs and Democrat-Republicans could no longer contain the stress on the Middling White Classes. The “Know-Nothing” movement was a first attempt by the elite to promote and forge a new paradigm to capture and control the pressure. When it broke down, the issue of “free-labor” and slavery could not be contained and from this vestibule arose the Republican Party.

    I think we are now in another moment of crisis. The current party system is straining very hard to contain the pressures on the middling classes once again.

    And once again Xenophobia is the first attempt by the elite to contain the masses.

  49. Invictus says:


    It is a fact that you blew two opportunities to see whose post it is, and several mentions throughout comments.

    I presented facts in my post. Bloomberg presented them at the link. As did the Times. As did the SF Chronicle. And, lastly, as did BLS in the whitepaper I cited.

    I suggested — please go reread — that demographics are “much more at play” than minimum wage or illegal immigrants. I went on to stress “that’s “much more,” not “exclusively”.” That’s hardly “one and only one explanation.” I’ve seen little to refute that but quotes from one of John Tanton’s organizations. Speaking of which, where is pschaeffer?

    Seriously, you should quit while you’re behind.

  50. jack says:

    grunschev – you are right, i tend to agree that it is possible to cut taxes and increase revenues, but i also know that it is not necessarily so, and certainly doesn’t work in the extremes. if taxes are cut to zero, then there will be zero tax revenue. if taxes rates go to 100%, then you could argue they also go to zero (why work?). any serious student of this concept knows that the ability of tax cuts to increase revenue has a diminishing effect, no different than the ability of tax increases to increase revenues. the whole point of the laffer curve is to display that there is an optimal tax rate that generates the maximum amount of revenues(yes, i know art is a whipping boy in these corners, but behaviorally, you have to admit that there some logic behind the concept of his famous graph). i tend to believe that our tax rates are slightly higher than the optimal, and that we would benefit from a few percentage points of reduction. i do not advocate for a drastic reduction. you are right in that the two concepts are related in the reduction to the absurd argument, but i will also argue that my point still stands that people respond to policy changes in a dynamic way, not purely arithematically. the law of unintended consequences usually has a way of countering public policy to some degree.

  51. clipb says:

    re demographics, “the age of aging” is the definative work in that regard, by george magnus. he figuratively travels the world demographic-wise. a sobering tale in many ways and it might be described as a excellent example of the word secular in terms of future trend.

  52. The Curmudgeon says:


    Late to the party (and my apologies if these points have been covered) but this:

    1) Jobs are not a zero-sum game. Just because someone over 55 gets or keeps a job, (or an immigrant, illegal or otherwise) hardly means that some teenager doesn’t. Economic growth floats all boats. It only becomes a zero-sum game when we start fretting that there is no work to be had for anyone. If that ever truly happens, we won’t have much to worry about so far as illegal immigration is concerned. So long as folks are still coming to America, you can bet that there’s still work to do. Just because not many Americans (teenagers and 55 +’ers) don’t wish to humble themselves with lowly restaurant and yard work, does not mean the work isn’t there.

    2) You may have correlation and causation regarding the over 55 participation in the workforce a bit confused. In a country that is aging, such as is the US, we would expect to see the ages of participants in the work force go up, regardless of minimum wage laws, or of immigration. Note I said “may”. Correlation is evidence of causation, but there are other valid demographic reasons that could explain the phenomena as well.

  53. S Brennan says:

    Which is why when you hear somebody blissfully remark that the age of Social Security should be raised and benefits cut so that poorer folks may work until they drop, you can be sure that the venality of the speaker is related to their lack of temporal capacity to see the obvious flaw that in an economy where 58% of efficiency gains go to 1% of the population and 90% of the gains go to the top 5% jobs & hence demand are scarce and resulting wages barely pay the Burgomaster his rent.

    Making lower income people work until they drop is not only screws the older worker, it screws the younger worker as well…and yet Murdoch has young dudes calling for old people to work until they drop.

  54. gordonq says:

    Napster, you say “Blaming the immigrants is a classic reaction by the scurrilous elite.” You don’t say who the elite are. Are they the government, the judicial system, the education system, the captains of industry, the media, Hollywood, the Illuminati, or all of the above? Or are they the Republicans, Rush Limbaugh, or Glenn Beck? Who are they and how does one get to be an elite and how does one know that they have elite-ness? Are there sure-fire tests for elite-ness? I’m curious because you lay a lot of blame on these people but haven’t identified them.

  55. pschaeffer says:


    A few years ago, McCarthyism went out of fashion. Clearly you didn’t get the message. However, if you want to engage in silly stuff, I say… Bring it on.

    Let’s talk about the leading pro-immigration group in the U.S. (you have to guess the name). This would be the group, whose name is derived from the work of a pro-Nazi activist… The name translates into English as “The Race” or “The Cosmic Race” but actually means “the superior race”… and they don’t seem to have a problem with it. This same group gave an award to a professor who advocates genocide. Nice huh.

    Let’s talk about the other pro-immigration group whose board included a Trotskyite who supported Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. The board also included the head of the L.A. branch of CARECEN, which backed the Communists in El Salvador’s civil war. The former chairman of this delightful outfit was also the Executive Director and CEO of the National Restaurant Association. Clearly the National Restaurant Association is the friend of workers everywhere.

    I find it almost funny that you are using the SPLC as a credible source. Clearly you haven’t read the Harpers article on the subject. See “The church of Morris Dees” (http://harpers.org/archive/2000/11/0068709).

    I have no idea what Mr. Tanton has or has not said. However, I do find it strange that you would criticizing him for his alleged views on the “educability” of low-skill immigrants. Clearly, you need to get with the program. That is the liberal conventional wisdom of late. Sadly, it is the right that still has fantasies about “making education work by breaking the teachers union”. Let me quote from The New Republic.

    “End State Is California finished?” by John Judis (http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/end-state).

    “The states with thriving educational systems were generally northern, predominately white, and with relatively few immigrants: the New England states, North Dakota, and Minnesota.”


    I looked up all of the Directors of CIS. Plently of liberals and Democrats. See below.

    Peter Nunez – Former U.S. Attorney. Appointed by Reagan.
    Vernon Briggs, Ph.D. – Liberal Democrat
    Thomas C.T. Brokaw – Environmentalist. Political affiliation unclear.
    William W. Chip – Political affiliation unclear.
    Otis L. Graham Jr. – Apparently a Democrat.
    George Grayson – Democrat.
    Carol Iannone – Conservative, presumably Republican.
    Frank Morris, Sr. – Liberal Democrat.
    Harry E. Soyster – Military background. Political affiliation unclear.
    Anita Winsor-Edwards – Political affiliation unclear.

    Economics, including labor markets, are driven by changes at the margin. Immigrants represent additional labor supply that would not exist without immigration. Teens are obviously a “new” supply of labor with each cohort. So are older workers who would normally be expected to leave the labor force. However, it is clear (see the comments above) that teens and low-skill immigrants (most of whom are not teens) are the closest substitutes for each other and have the greatest impact on each other.

    “The forces of xenophobia want to distract the middle class from the culprits of our current economic situation.”

    George Bush was a xenophobe? Who knew? I thought he was an Open Borders guy. I guess Bush had nothing to do with the economy of late. Who knew? I could point out that the elite in the U.S. is overwhelmingly pro-Open Borders. Only the people have reservations…

    “The rise of the “Know Nothing” Tea Party movement has a lot to do with the need for a distraction from the issues of the day which benefit the elite.”

    You need to read more history. From the New York Times Review of Books.

    “The main thrust of Nativism and Slavery, and what makes it both interesting and valuable, is the very powerful and convincing argument put forward by the author, and buttressed by numerous statistical tables, charts and maps, that the unparalleled success of the Know Nothings in the mid-1850s occurred because Northerners chose to express their intense antislavery sentiments through this party.”

    Deflator Mouse,

    You are only considering illegal immigrants. America also has huge numbers of legal low-skill immigrants. Beyond that, several commenters (including myself) have pointed out that low-skill immigrants have skills (or lack thereof) similar to teens. Oldsters don’t.


    Kudos. Good find.

  56. [...] de-constructs the right-wing narrative that increases in the minimum wage has led to higher teen [...]

  57. Lord says:

    Job creation peaked in mid 2005 and fell steadily afterwards. By 2007 it had fallen below workforce growth meaning unemployment had to rise. When unemployment rises, teens with their lack of experience are on the front line and bear the brunt of it. That is far more important than the minimum wage though the inability to accept a lower wage is part of it. In an adverse job market, those laid off have to take lower paying jobs to find work so teens would have to compete will increasing numbers of more experienced workers at lower wages. Relatively few teens even work at the minimum wage.

  58. bena gyerek says:


    i wonder what their current propensity to save is like? i wonder what will be the impact of downsizing by retiring babyboomers on the price of family-sized homes? i wonder what the impact of vesting babyboom pension funds will be on stock and annuity prices….?

    you gotta love demographics..

  59. [...] to alter our current situation.  (Some of my previous posts surrounding demographics can be seen here, here, here, here and here, to cite but a [...]