Writing at The Wall Street Journal, Jason Riley argues that there’s “something sadly ironic” about President Barack Obama’s State of the Union proposal for increasing the federal minimum wage, considering which groups are likely to suffer the most under such a change. Riley writes:
Minimum-wage laws date to the 1930s, and supporters in Congress at the time were explicit about using them to stop blacks from displacing whites in the labor force by working for less money. Milton Friedman regarded the minimum wage as "one of the most, if not the most, anti-black laws on the statute books."
When you artificially increase the cost of labor, you wind up with surplus labor, which takes the form of unemployment. Younger and less-experienced workers—a disproportionate number of whom are black—are more likely to be priced out of the labor force when the cost of hiring someone goes up. Prior to the passage of minimum-wage laws—and in an era of open and rampant racial discrimination in the U.S.—the unemployment rate for black men was much lower than it is now and similar to that of whites in the same age group.