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The Contribution of the Minimum Wage to U.S. Wage Inequality over Three Decades: A Reassessment

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  • David H. Autor
  • Alan Manning
  • Christopher L. Smith

Abstract

We reassess the effect of state and federal minimum wages on U.S. earnings inequality, attending to two issues that appear to bias earlier work: violation of the assumed independence of state wage levels and state wage dispersion, and errors-in-variables that inflate impact estimates via an analogue of the well known division bias problem. We find that the minimum wage reduces inequality in the lower tail of the wage distribution (the 50/10 wage ratio), but the impacts are typically less than half as large as those reported in the literature and are almost negligible for males. Nevertheless, the estimated effects extend to wage percentiles where the minimum is nominally non-binding, implying spillovers. We structurally estimate these spillovers and show that their relative importance grows as the nominal minimum wage becomes less binding. Subsequent analysis underscores, however, that spillovers and measurement error (absent spillovers) have similar implications for the effect of the minimum on the shape of the lower tail of the measured wage distribution. With available precision, we cannot reject the hypothesis that estimated spillovers to non-binding percentiles are due to reporting artifacts. Accepting this null, the implied effect of the minimum wage on the actual wage distribution is smaller than the effect of the minimum wage on the measured wage distribution.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Centre for Economic Performance, LSE in its series CEP Discussion Papers with number dp1025.

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Date of creation: Nov 2010
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Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp1025

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Web page: http://cep.lse.ac.uk/_new/publications/series.asp?prog=CEP

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Keywords: Wage structure; inequality; minimum wage;

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  1. Allegretto, Sylvia & Dube, Arindrajit & Reich, Michael, 2010. "Do Minimum Wages Really Reduce Teen Employment? Accounting for Heterogeneity and Selectivity in State Panel Data," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt7jq2q3j8, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
  2. Nidardo, J. & Fortin, N. & Lemieux, T., 1994. "Labor Market Institutions and the Distribution of Wages, 1973-1992: A Semiparametric Approach," Papers 93-94-15, California Irvine - School of Social Sciences.
  3. Victor Chernozhukov & Christian Hansen, 2005. "An IV Model of Quantile Treatment Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(1), pages 245-261, 01.
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  1. The Contribution of the Minimum Wage to U.S. Wage Inequality over Three Decades: A Reassessment
    by maximorossi in NEP-LTV blog on 2011-06-16 13:04:27
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Cited by:
  1. Aart Gerritsen & Bas Jacobs, 2014. "Is a Minimum Wage an Appropriate Instrument for Redistribution?," CESifo Working Paper Series 4588, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Theodore Koutmeridis, 2013. "The Market for "Rough Diamonds": Information, Finance and Wage Inequality," Discussion Paper Series, Department of Economics 201307, Department of Economics, University of St. Andrews, revised 14 Oct 2013.
  3. Theodore Koutmeridis, 2013. "The Market for "Rough Diamonds": Information, Finance and Wage Inequality," CDMA Working Paper Series 201307, Centre for Dynamic Macroeconomic Analysis, revised 14 Oct 2013.
  4. Müller, Kai-Uwe & Steiner, Viktor, 2013. "Distributional effects of a minimum wage in a welfare state: The case of Germany," Discussion Papers 2013/21, Free University Berlin, School of Business & Economics.
  5. Mueller, Kai-Uwe & Steiner, Viktor, 2013. "Behavioral effects of a federal minimum wage and income inequality in Germany," Annual Conference 2013 (Duesseldorf): Competition Policy and Regulation in a Global Economic Order 79784, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
  6. Kai-Uwe Müller & Viktor Steiner, 2013. "Distributional Effects of a Minimum Wage in a Welfare State: The Case of Germany," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 617, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).
  7. Richard Dickens & Alan Manning & Tim Butcher, 2012. "Minimum Wages and Wage Inequality: Some Theory and an Application to the UK," Working Paper Series 4512, Department of Economics, University of Sussex.
  8. David H. Autor & David Dorn, 2013. "The Growth of Low-Skill Service Jobs and the Polarization of the US Labor Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 103(5), pages 1553-97, August.
  9. Isaac Sorkin, . "Are There Long-Run Effects of the Minimum Wage?," Review of Economic Dynamics, Elsevier for the Society for Economic Dynamics.
  10. Josh Bivens & Lawrence Mishel, 2013. "The Pay of Corporate Executives and Financial Professionals as Evidence of Rents in Top 1 Percent Incomes," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 27(3), pages 57-78, Summer.

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