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Even more harm than good

In his Oct. 2 column, "More harm than good," Austin Raynor egregiously violates of the first law of statistics: Correlation is not causation. In proof of his assertion that raising the minimum wage is harmful to college-age people, he cites the rise in the unemployment rate from 2007 to the present. What Raynor did not mention is that the rise in the minimum wage is correlated with higher unemployment across all groups of people - but correlation is not causation! The rise in the unemployment rate is also correlated with the worst recession since the Great Depression. Economic theory suggests that recessions cause unemployment to rise. The rise in unemployment since 2007 that Raynor sees is a result of the recession first and foremost and provides no justification for any hypothesis about the minimum wage.

Raynor also errs when he cites some numbers for unemployment. He quotes a current figure for the 16-24 age demographic and does a raw comparison, saying the current unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds is 10 points higher than the total unemployment rate. Looking at past data, though, the 16- to 24 year-old unemployment rate has always been above the national average - in good times and bad. Economic theory suggests that those who lack experience and/or education - e.g., many people between 16 and 24 - generally have a more difficult time finding jobs than those with education and/or experience. Even so, comparing the two raw numbers here is like comparing apples and oranges. A more relevant comparison here is not a comparison in absolute terms, but rather in relative terms: How does the unemployment rate of the 16 to 24 demographic compare to overall unemployment relatively? During the last 17 years, the unemployment rate of those between 16- and 24-years of age has averaged about 2.17 times the total unemployment rate. Currently, the unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds is 1.86 times the total unemployment rate. The fluctuations in this number since 1993 have no correlation with whether the minimum wage stayed the same or increased. This comparison does not support Raynor's assertion that the rise in the minimum wage has adversely affected young adults.

I believe that everyone would greatly benefit from taking an introductory statistics course, and Raynor is no exception.

Garrett Koontz\nCLAS IV