Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Economist: Minimum Wage Rise Doesn't Hurt Employment

Arindrajit Dube, associate professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and research fellow at IZAcounters the conservative argument that increasing the minimum wage would cause job losses. His research finds that the effect on employment is "statistically indistinguishable from zero":

In my work with T. William Lester and Michael Reich, we use nearly two decades’ worth of data and compare all bordering areas in the United States to show that while higher minimum wages raise earnings of low-wage workers, they do not have a detectable impact on employment. Our estimates — published in 2010 in the Review of Economics and Statistics — suggest that a hypothetical 10 percent increase in the minimum wage affects employment in the restaurant or retail industries, by much less than 1 percent; the change is in fact statistically indistinguishable from zero.

...While the evidence may not convince the most strident of critics, it has shifted views among economists. A panel of 41 leading economists was asked recently by the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business to weigh in on President Obama’s proposal to increase the minimum wage and automatically index it to inflation. A plurality, 47 percent, supported the policy...

But how can minimum wages rise without causing job losses? For starters, if the demand for burgers is not price sensitive, some of the cost increase can be passed on to customers without substantially reducing demand or jobs. Existing research suggests that if you raise the minimum wage by 10 percent, you can expect the price of a $3 burger to rise by a few cents, which is enough to absorb a sizable part of the wage increase.

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