Surprising Stats About Fast Food Workers [Infographic]

Fast Food Protest

Should fast food workers' wages be nearly doubled to $15 an hour? This has been driving a debate that has picked up steam since November 2012, when the first group of fast food workers staged a walkout in New York. Since then, dozens of similar protests have occurred in cities across the U.S. (You can see the how it all unfolded illustrated on a map.)

Activists have called for an end to "starvation" wages and suggest that large employers such as McDonald's and Wendy's can afford to pay more, while employers say that the workers are unskilled and these jobs are meant only to be short-term entry-level gigs, not full-time jobs.

"The restaurant industry is a launching pad," Andrew Moesel, a spokesman for the New York State Restaurant Association, told MSNBC. "Yes, there are some low wage jobs, entry level jobs for young people and others, but it actually creates an opportunity for people to go on and live the American dream."

But is this predominantly true? And who exactly is working in that fast food industry, flipping our burgers, brewing lattes and mopping up after the dinner rush?

AOL Jobs examined data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, along with a recent analysis by the left-leaning Center of Economic Policy Research. The overall picture is of a workforce that is older and better educated (and paid less) than you might suspect. The fast food industry is among the fastest growing low-wage sectors in the U.S., right alongside retail, but the industry actually has seen real wages fall. And the median age of a fast food worker is 28.

Check out the infographic below. And then tell us why you think so many adults are working in fast food, and is a raise to $15 an hour a smart move?

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In 1968, I got my first fast food job. Got paid $1.25 an hour and worked 48 hours a week. We were told that we would not get paid overtime for those extra eight hours because we worked in the restaurant business. Learned years later, that was a lie. But it had been more than two years, so there was nothing we could do about it.
The most I ever got paid at any job I worked was $12.25. The most I ever earned in a single year was $29K and that was because we worked 58 hours a week for 48 of the 52 weeks that year, and I was not making the $12.25 yet. I never complained about not making enough money to live on. We had two cars, neither of them new, they were at least 10 years old or older. I did the maintenance on them myself.
We raised a child during that time as well. We made do with what we had and did not live above our means. It can be done!

September 10 2013 at 11:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Sammy's comment

what did you pay for rent? how much was a loaf of bread? a gallon of gas?
yes it can be done, but back then 1.25 an hour was a living wage...with an economic power of the equivalent of over $22.00 an hour in 2013. do you see the problem?

September 07 2014 at 12:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Be happy with your free combo meal and shut it!

September 10 2013 at 8:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

A "living wage" does not just apply to fast food workers - and since most of the focus has been on fast food workers in larger cities where the cost of living is higher, someone needs to perform an UNBIASED - NATIONAL benchmarking study of what a "living wage" really is. If all fast food workers are given $15 an hour nationally, to some that is equivalent to a managerial position in many other offices/industries. I have an MBA and make only slightly more than the fast food workers requested living wage of $15 an hour. Our company is small with no real benefits or retirement plan available. So what are the options for the rest of the work force that meets the same demographics as the above infographic of fast food workers (IN NEW YORK) across the rest of the United States. We have two incomes and healthcare through my husband's job, but we also pay cash for our daycare, pay our own utilities and do not qualify for any government assistance. But we also can't afford vacations, or luxuries like smart phones and $100 athletic shoes. More than wages and general living conditions need to be taken into account - what is the cost of living in the areas these workers live, some areas are far less expensive to live in than others - I haven't seen Montana, South Dakota, Arkansas, Wyoming, Nebraska or Kansas fast food workers being show on the media as being unable to live on their wages - the media and those wanting wages raised need to look at the NATIONAL picture not the most expensive cities in the country. And if they all get a raise to $15 an hour as a starting wage - will that spill over to the front desk person at the law office 3 blocks from the poor starving fast food workers location who is making $10 an hour and lives in the same conditions.....? How about the lab tech making $9.25 an hour, no health care benefits, no retirement, and a family? They may meet the income guidelines for government assistance, but then so would the fast food worker in the same neighborhood in this situation. Where do they start fixing things, who do they help first - We all need to be able to earn a living, enjoy our lives and families without worrying about food, utilities, etc taking every dime we get, so that we are not able to save for emergencies, retirement, vacations, etc. IT ISN'T JUST FAST FOOD WORKERS that need new wage benchmarks - IT IS everyone who is in that canyon between LIVING WAGE and GOVT ASSISTANCE that barely squeak by.

September 07 2013 at 12:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Kimberley's comment

i currently make a little over 12.00 an hour in silicon valley. i have a bacholors and a masters degrees. it is far from a living wage.

September 07 2014 at 12:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

They all agreed to work at these places. Case closed!

August 14 2013 at 9:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Got to love how they try to skew statistics to illustrate their own bias. Explained a different way:

--61% of all employees are under 24. We don't know how many are college age/attendees in that 20-22 age band are, so it's quite plausible that the full % of those 21 or under makes up nearly 40-50%, rather than this skewed view of "older than you'd expect".
--6.2% earned a diploma? In what? And, how long in that role in food service does the average spend there? Anyone with a decent degree probably spends less than 1 year post-graduation UNLESS they choose to do so. Or maybe they're "waiting for their dream opportunity", like being discovered by Hollywood or their big album debut to hit? Seriously--how much is choice vs. "lack of opportunity" to use that degree?
--How about this: 61% of those 20+ have a HS diploma or have not completed HS?
--OR, how about >80% make more than minimum wage?

You also have to remember that these are based on survey data from 2010-2012. Snapshots in time, each of them--meaning that those who respond with the college degree today, may NOT be on there tomorrow--and another one steps in--so it is an "average" estimation of what is occurring. Imagine it this way, water flows into a full cup at a consistent rate--so water has to also be flowing out. You'll see the cup as always full, but each drop of water added is DIFFERENT than the one that just flowed out. Doesn't mean that that someone is stuck permanently in that role for years on end, it just means that there's a general distribution of folks meeting those characteristics at any given moment.

Let's also ask this: If you paid these people $15/hr+, what real INCENTIVE is there to better themselves? $20k/year isn't a great way to live, but it is absolutely doable if you tried. Problem is that everyone wants that iPhone costing $100/mo; cable package for another $100/mo+; $399/mo car lease/loan; $200 sneakers; big screen TV; and on and on "just to survive".

August 14 2013 at 1:46 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bb6317's comment

The growth is there
Manager can make the same as a starting teacher
Multi unit managers can make as much as a business grad
The big boys don't and won't hire college grads, they want free thinkers to solve problems as they come, never found this lesson in a text book.
I helped a large QSR expand and grow, a full service restaurant turn things around.and more.helping grads learn things the schools don't know.I didn't Finnish college. And I do very well.
The restaurant biz is for people who aren't afraid to work.

August 14 2013 at 7:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

American Dream? Whata joke, it's now Mexican Dream, all Americans can do is pray. Every time a hear a congressman complain about Americans being on the dole I cringe, at least they earned it. It's at the point, why work when you see all your money go to people who don't belong here, all they have to do is come and take over everything you earned or can work for. Thank Bill Clinton.

August 14 2013 at 12:13 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

Thank god the majority is white now I'm not a racist to say TUFF you have nothing to offer but minimal skills you get minimal pay. The idea that a person working the counter or flipping a burger should make $15 a hr is insane. After 25 yrs as a Certified welder, Journeyman Ironworker, college for blueprinting, certified crane flag & assembly, certified many times over by OSHA & a VET, the immigration problem has lowered my pay to less than that. I put my life on the line daily & it is some of the hardest work there is & some slacker at BK should make $15 a hr LMFAO.

August 14 2013 at 11:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Darth Kenyan

Dear fast food worker,
Don't loiter at the bottom of the food chain. Use the entry level job to support yourself, and get an education for something higher up the food chain.
Get it?

August 14 2013 at 10:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Darth Kenyan's comment

Like Ray Croc and Dave Thomas

August 14 2013 at 7:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

According to your infographic, the median age of the fastfood worker is somewhere under 24, not 28. Perhaps you meant mean.

August 14 2013 at 10:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

These statistics only further prove that the fast food industry was never intended to be a "career" job opportunity! yet a jumping off point for people to get a start, maybe help pay for their college, or waiting for a better opportunity.

Wal-Mart is an annual 450 Billion dollar business and I don't hear anybody yelling to pay their employees more!

Paying fast food workers $15 an hour will only drive up the cost and drive people away which in turn will cause the business to down size which will only cause people to lose their job.

It's a supply and demand enconomy that we live in. If you don't like the job you are free to pursue other means of employment.

August 14 2013 at 9:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to chiefbeamer's comment

Re: your second paragraph, haven't you heard about the Walmart Vs. Wash DC min wage issue?

August 14 2013 at 11:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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