The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Chris Christie needs to update his stereotypes about the minimum wage

"I'm tired of hearing about the minimum wage," Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) said during an event at the Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday. "I really am. I don't think there's a mother or a father sitting around the kitchen table tonight in America saying, 'You know, honey, if our son or daughter could just make a higher minimum wage, my God, all of our dreams would be realized.' Is that what parents aspire to?"

Christie is probably right, for two reasons. The first is the obvious one: no one aspires to make as little a salary as possible, although there are certainly people sitting around kitchen tables wishing for some salary at all. (As of last month, 9.3 million of them.) But he's also right that no one is doing that  -- mostly because the image of minimum wage workers as teenagers, kids working at the soda fountain after school, is wrong.

It's first worth noting that while most Americans earn an hourly wage, nearly all make more than the minimum, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As the recession took hold, though, the number of people earning a minimum wage swelled.

And as that wave hit the workforce, it was those over 25 years old who comprised the biggest part of the new minimum wage earners. (Or lower. We've included those making under the minimum wage here, too.)

That reflected the longer-term trend. About half of minimum wage earners are over the age of 25. Fewer than a quarter -- and in the immediate wake of the recession, just over a fifth -- of minimum wage earners were between 16 and 19.

The parents at Christie's imaginary table are also far more likely to have been talking about their daughter than their son. About a third of minimum wage earners are men. About two-thirds are women.

In other words, it isn't parents sitting around kitchen tables worried about their kids getting a bump in their minimum wage jobs. Rather, it's much more likely to be a young mother herself, hoping for a raise in her own paycheck.