More on the Minimum Wage

Ronald Bailey at Reason had this iteration of “more.” He brought this item up, even though it’s been described before:

In the absence of the higher minimum wage, employers would generally hire more workers to meet an increased demand for fast food. Boosting the minimum wage means that the revenues that would have otherwise been used to hire new workers is not available. The end result: fewer jobs created and more folks unemployed.

But then he cited some actual research:

…published in the December 2014 issue of the Journal of Labor Research, Andrew Hanson of Marquette University and Zack Hawley of Texas Christian University analyzed how low-wage employment would be affected in each state by the imposition of the national $10.10 per hour minimum wage supported by President Obama. The Hanson/Hawley study takes into account how wages relate to the varying cost-of-living levels among the states. First they report the number of workers in a state who earn less than $10.10 per hour. Next they apply the widely agreed upon formula that for every 10% increase in wages there is a corresponding 1 to 2 percent decrease in demand for labor. They then straightforwardly estimate that boosting the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour would result in the loss of between 550,000 and 1.5 million jobs.

And this study, by Jeffrey Clemens and Michael Wither of the University of California, San Diego and published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in December, which used different methodology and reached a similar result.

[J]ob losses were considerably higher in states where unskilled workers had been earning less than the new minimum and employers were now forced to pay more. Overall, the authors estimate that the minimum wage increase “reduced the employment-to-population ratio of working age adults by 0.7 percentage points.” Stated otherwise, not raising the minimum wage would have boosted the 2012 employment-to-population ratio from 58.6 to 59.3, which implies that we actually had 1.4 million fewer jobs than we otherwise would have had.

Thus: on the one hand, raising the minimum wage will cost a million people, more or less, their jobs, and on the other hand, an additional 1.4 million jobs weren’t created in the first place.

Beyond that, there’s this. Raising wages raises prices, as even the Left acknowledges. What gets ignored in this is that those higher prices are paid by those who got the pay raise. Those who got the pay raise, also, are those who work low-skill jobs. Those low-skill jobs exist almost exclusively in commodity industries: food service, extraction, and so on. The goods produced in those commodity industries are the ones most susceptible to production costs like labor, yet those costs are most completely reflected in prices despite price competition. These are the goods with whose higher prices those low-skill workers will be confronted. Wage increase leading to price rise equals no net improvement for the low-skilled. That, though, also represents net harm for everyone else in our economy, who also are faced with those same higher prices.

It’s hard to believe those who claim to be so much smarter than us don’t get this. Which makes me wonder about their motive. Against the backdrop of why minimum wage laws were made national laws in the first place, back in the mid-30s.


Hanson and Hawley’s paper can be read here, and Clemens and Wither’s paper can be read here (paywall alert).

One thought on “More on the Minimum Wage

  1. In addition, everyone faces those higher prices – and that includes those who don’t have a job because of the higher minimum wage. How are they supposed to benefit?

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