When workers do not know – The behavioral effects of minimum wage laws revisited
Previous experimental results have shown that the introduction of a minimum wage increases wages in a monopsonistic labor market. The results rely on the assumption that the minimum wage laws are common knowledge among employers and workers, which is often violated in less developed labor markets. This paper examines the effect of asymmetric knowledge about the minimum wage, and its interaction with the level of the minimum wage standard. We find that, whether the workers have knowledge about the minimum wage significantly changes the behavioral impacts of the minimum wage policy. With common knowledge, most firms offer wages beyond the minimum wage level. When workers do not know about the minimum wage policy, many firms, including those who used to pay higher wages before the introduction of the policy, choose to pay wages at the minimum level or lower their offers toward the minimum level. This causes the introduction of the minimum wage not effective in increasing average wages when the minimum wage standard is low. Therefore, a low minimum wage under asymmetric knowledge may potentially have a negative spillover effect on wages. The asymmetric knowledge also affects the employment level negatively. These findings help explain why the impacts of minimum wage are different in labor markets where workers have different degree of information access. This has strong implications for the implementation and welfare impacts of minimum wage laws.
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