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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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    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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