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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