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The consequences of minimum wage laws Some new theoretical ideas

  • Rebitzer, James B.
  • Taylor, Lowell J.

Economists generally agree that the immediate and direct effect of a binding minimum wage law is to move firms backward along the demand curve for low skill workers. However, this prediction of worker displacement depends critically on a model of firm behavior that abstracts from problems of work incentives. In this paper we re-examine the theoretical basis for the consensus view of minimum wage laws. The central finding is that when firms use the threat of dismissal to elicit high levels of work effort, an increase in the minimum wage may have the immediate and direct effect of increasing the level of employment in low wage jobs. The formal logic of our model is similar to that found in the model of labor demand under monopsony. However, unlike the monopsony model, the positive employment effect of the minimum wage emerges in a labor market comprised of a large number of firms competing for the labor services of identical workers.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Public Economics.

Volume (Year): 56 (1995)
Issue (Month): 2 (February)
Pages: 245-255

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Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:56:y:1995:i:2:p:245-255
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  9. David Neumark & William Wascher, 1992. "Employment effects of minimum and subminimum wages: Panel data on state minimum wage laws," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 46(1), pages 55-81, October.
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  19. Holzer, Harry J & Katz, Lawrence F & Krueger, Alan B, 1991. "Job Queues and Wages," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(3), pages 739-68, August.
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  21. Alida Castillo-Freeman & Richard B. Freeman, 1992. "When the Minimum Wage Really Bites: The Effect of the U.S.-Level Minimum on Puerto Rico," NBER Chapters, in: Immigration and the Workforce: Economic Consequences for the United States and Source Areas, pages 177-212 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  22. MacLeod, W. Bentley & Malcomson, James M., 1993. "Wage premiums and profit maximization in efficiency wage models," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 37(6), pages 1223-1249, August.
  23. Brown, Charles & Gilroy, Curtis & Kohen, Andrew, 1982. "The Effect of the Minimum Wage on Employment and Unemployment," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 20(2), pages 487-528, June.
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