(Tim Carman/The Washington Post) (Tim Carman/The Washington Post)

There's been a lot of talk in recent weeks about the minimum wage in the fast food industry. Workers are protesting. Economists are petitioning for better paid McJobs. And McDonald's is getting satirized for providing workers with sample personal budgets that appear to suggest the need for two jobs to get by.

One of the debates that comes up over and over again amid all this talk is who actually does these low-wage, fast food jobs--high school kids making a little extra spending money, or people trying to support themselves on their own? The Center for Economic and Policy Research, a progressive think tank, found this answer in its analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data released Wednesday: Yes, from 2010 to 2012, 30 percent of fast food workers were between the ages of 16 and 19. But the largest portion, or 36 percent, were between the ages of 25 and 54. Half were 23 or older.

SOURCE: Center for Economic and Policy Research, Authors' analysis of the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Current Population Survey

The analysis also found that 79 percent of adults in the fast food industry made $10.09 or less an hour. More than 70 percent have at least a high school degree. And more than one fourth, the report found, are raising at least one child.

Jena McGregor is a columnist for On Leadership.

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