It’s hard to talk to Jada McNeio and not wish she earned more money. The senior at Urban Science Academy in West Roxbury, who hopes to study criminal justice in college, had to drop off the basketball team this year to help her mother pay the bills.
So now, after school, she heads straight to her job at the same Dunkin’ Donuts in the South End where her mother works. She works 30 hours a week, relying on understanding teachers and school staff to accept the toll on her schoolwork.
She’s a teenager. She earns the minimum wage. Does she belong in a separate category of workers?
A minimum wage bill is making its way through Beacon Hill, and there seems to be a growing consensus on raising Massachusetts’ minimum wage from $8 to $10.50 over three years. (There’s also a separate ballot question afoot, supported by local unions, which would raise the minimum wage to $10.50 over two years.)
But there is less consensus, here and nationwide, over what to do about teens. And it turns out that teens make up a substantial portion of minimum-wage earners. Nationally, just over half of minimum wage earners are 24 or younger, according to a Heritage Foundation study. Of those, 79 percent work part time, 62 percent are also students, and their average family income is $65,900 per year.