Most Fast-Food Workers Are Not Teens

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Fast-food workers at McDonald’s and other restaurant chains have been protesting to draw attention to their low wages, demanding $15 an hour.

Fast-food jobs are typically considered entry level, but most of the people who hold them are no younger than age 20, a new Center for Economic and Policy Research study says. “Many teenagers do work in fast food, but the majority of fast-food workers are not teenagers,” it says. Here’s the breakdown, which is from census data:

  • 16 to 19 year of age — 30 percent.
  • 20-24 — 30.7 percent.
  • 25-54 — 36.4 percent.
  • 55 and older — 2.9 percent.

The stereotype that fast-food workers are uneducated doesn’t hold water, either. “Over 70 percent of all fast-food workers have at least a high school degree and more than 30 percent have had at least some college education,” the study says.

A majority are white, and a majority are female. More than a quarter of those 16 and older have a child, and more than a third of those 20 or older do. “Older workers in fast food have little to show for their additional education, age, and experience,” the study says. More than 83 percent of fast-food workers make less than $10.09 per hour.

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  • Reba Gilbert

    Thanks for the great research Brandon…well done!

  • Nancy Wanderski

    25% of 16 year olds have a child, and 33% of the 20 somethings have a child? Do I see a common thread here? One would like to think that a High School Graduate would know that the pay in fast food won’t ever support oneself let alone a child. Poor choices have consequences and it’s not the fast food industry or the governments responsibility to solve this problem. And think of the prices they would have to charge for a burger and fries? They’d all have to go out of business or automate even more using robots and then there would be NO jobs if they were forced to pay all their workers $15 an hour! Think it through!