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The Contribution of the Minimum Wage to US 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 minimum wages on US earnings inequality using additional decades of data and an IV strategy that addresses potential biases in prior work. We find that the minimum wage reduces inequality in the lower tail of the wage distribution, though by substantially less than previous estimates, suggesting that rising lower tail inequality after 1980 primarily reflects underlying wage structure changes rather than an unmasking of latent inequality. These wage effects extend to percentiles where the minimum is nominally nonbinding, implying spillovers. We are unable to reject that these spillovers are due to reporting artifacts, however. (JEL J22, J31, J38, K31)

Suggested Citation

  • David H. Autor & Alan Manning & Christopher L. Smith, 2016. "The Contribution of the Minimum Wage to US Wage Inequality over Three Decades: A Reassessment," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 8(1), pages 58-99, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejapp:v:8:y:2016:i:1:p:58-99
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/app.20140073
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Acemoglu, Daron & Autor, David, 2011. "Skills, Tasks and Technologies: Implications for Employment and Earnings," Handbook of Labor Economics, Elsevier.
    2. Dube, Arindrajit & Giuliano, Laura & Leonard, Jonathan, 2015. "Fairness and Frictions: The Impact of Unequal Raises on Quit Behavior," IZA Discussion Papers 9149, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    3. Teulings, Coen N, 2000. "Aggregation Bias in Elasticities of Substitution and the Minimum Wage Paradox," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 41(2), pages 359-398, May.
    4. Thomas Lemieux, 2008. "The changing nature of wage inequality," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 21(1), pages 21-48, January.
    5. Congressional Budget Office, 2014. "The Effects of a Minimum-Wage Increase on Employment and Family Income," Reports 44995, Congressional Budget Office.
    6. Victor Chernozhukov & Christian Hansen, 2005. "An IV Model of Quantile Treatment Effects," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 73(1), pages 245-261, January.
    7. DiNardo, John & Fortin, Nicole M & Lemieux, Thomas, 1996. "Labor Market Institutions and the Distribution of Wages, 1973-1992: A Semiparametric Approach," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(5), pages 1001-1044, September.
    8. 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.
    9. David Neumark & JM Salas & William Wascher, 2014. "More on recent evidence on the effects of minimum wages in the United States," IZA Journal of Labor Policy, Springer;Forschungsinstitut zur Zukunft der Arbeit GmbH (IZA), vol. 3(1), pages 1-26, December.
    10. Katz, Lawrence F. & Autor, David H., 1999. "Changes in the wage structure and earnings inequality," Handbook of Labor Economics,in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 26, pages 1463-1555 Elsevier.
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    13. repec:cbo:report:44995 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. David Card & John E. DiNardo, 2002. "Skill-Biased Technological Change and Rising Wage Inequality: Some Problems and Puzzles," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20(4), pages 733-783, October.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J22 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Time Allocation and Labor Supply
    • J31 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Wage Level and Structure; Wage Differentials
    • J38 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Public Policy
    • K31 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Labor Law

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