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.

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