Teenage Burger-Flippers: Myths of the Minimum Wage Debate

fast-food age grafik

The image of the wholesome teenage hamburger-flipper might not be history — it might be myth.

Hundreds of fast-food workers descended on McDonald’s headquarters this week to make the case that the chain’s labor force is no longer dominated by teenagers looking for a little pocket change.

A weak labor market, the story goes, has sent adults desperate for work into fast food jobs, pushing the median age of burger-flippers to 27.

Yet fast-food workers have long been older than “American Graffiti” or “Grease” might suggest.

Since 2000, the median age of fast-food workers has fluctuated between about 26 and 35. And it’s been trending downward since 2010, to 27.6 years in 2013, according to unpublished Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Industry-wide, about 18 percent of workers are teenagers.

At McDonald’s, about one-third are teenagers, executives say.


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