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The Expected Penalty for Committing a Crime: An Analysis of Minimum Wage Violations

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  • John R. Lott Jr.
  • Russell D. Roberts

Abstract

Several papers have noted and sought to explain the paradox of minimum wage law compliance. Compliance rates are high even though the penalty for violating the law is allegedly less than the underpayment to workers. By comparison, we show that the actual penalty exceeds the underpayment. We combine our estimates of the costs of violating the law with estimates of the probability of apprehension to arrive at the expected cost of violating the law. In contrast with previous work, we find that the expected costs are sufficiently high to make compliance rational.

Suggested Citation

  • John R. Lott Jr. & Russell D. Roberts, 1995. "The Expected Penalty for Committing a Crime: An Analysis of Minimum Wage Violations," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 30(2), pages 397-408.
  • Handle: RePEc:uwp:jhriss:v:30:y:1995:i:2:p:397-408
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    Cited by:

    1. ArnabK. Basu & NancyH. Chau & Ravi Kanbur, 2010. "Turning a Blind Eye: Costly Enforcement, Credible Commitment and Minimum Wage Laws," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 120(543), pages 244-269, March.
    2. Eckstein, Zvi & Ge, Suqin & Petrongolo, Barbara, 2006. "Job and Wage Mobility in a Search Model with Non-Compliance (Exemptions) with the Minimum Wage," IZA Discussion Papers 2076, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    3. Dinkelman, Taryn & Ranchhod, Vimal, 2012. "Evidence on the impact of minimum wage laws in an informal sector: Domestic workers in South Africa," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 99(1), pages 27-45.
    4. Clemens, Jeffrey & Strain, Michael R., 2019. "Understanding "Wage Theft": Evasion and Avoidance Responses to Minimum Wage Increases," IZA Discussion Papers 12167, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

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