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Minimum Wages and Wage Inequality: Some Theory and an Application to the UK


  • Tim Butcher
  • Richard Dickens
  • Alan Manning


Research suggests that, at the levels set in countries like the US and the UK, minimum wages have little effect on employment but do have impacts on wage inequality. However we lack models that can explain these facts - this paper presents one based on imperfect labour markets. The paper also investigates the impact of the UK's National Minimum Wage on wage inequality finding it can explain a sizeable part of the evolution of wage inequality in the bottom half of the distribution in the period 1998-2010. We also present evidence that the impact of the NMW reaches up to 40% above the NMW in 2010 which corresponds to the 25th percentile. These spillovers are larger in low-wage segments.

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  • Tim Butcher & Richard Dickens & Alan Manning, 2012. "Minimum Wages and Wage Inequality: Some Theory and an Application to the UK," CEP Discussion Papers dp1177, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp1177

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kosali Ilayperuma Simon & Robert Kaestner, 2004. "Do Minimum Wages Affect Non-Wage Job Attributes? Evidence on Fringe Benefits," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 58(1), pages 52-70, October.
    2. Card, David & Krueger, Alan B, 1994. "Minimum Wages and Employment: A Case Study of the Fast-Food Industry in New Jersey and Pennsylvania," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 772-793, September.
    3. 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.
    4. Meyer, Robert H & Wise, David A, 1983. "The Effects of the Minimum Wage on the Employment and Earnings of Youth," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 1(1), pages 66-100, January.
    5. Meyer, Robert H & Wise, David A, 1983. "Discontinuous Distributions and Missing Persons: The Minimum Wage and Unemployed Youth," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(6), pages 1677-1698, November.
    6. 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.
    7. Maarten Goos & Alan Manning, 2007. "Lousy and Lovely Jobs: The Rising Polarization of Work in Britain," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(1), pages 118-133, February.
    8. repec:nsr:niesrd:378 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Richard Dickens & Rebecca Riley & David Wilkinson, 2011. "The UK Minimum Wage at Age 22: A Regression Discontinuity Approach," Working Paper Series 2111, Department of Economics, University of Sussex.
    10. Christopher J. Flinn, 2006. "Minimum Wage Effects on Labor Market Outcomes under Search, Matching, and Endogenous Contact Rates," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 74(4), pages 1013-1062, July.
    11. Alan B. Krueger & David Card, 2000. "Minimum Wages and Employment: A Case Study of the Fast-Food Industry in New Jersey and Pennsylvania: Reply," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1397-1420, December.
    12. David S. Lee, 1999. "Wage Inequality in the United States During the 1980s: Rising Dispersion or Falling Minimum Wage?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(3), pages 977-1023.
    13. William Wascher & David Neumark, 2000. "Minimum Wages and Employment: A Case Study of the Fast-Food Industry in New Jersey and Pennsylvania: Comment," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(5), pages 1362-1396, December.
    14. Jean Baldwin Grossman, 1983. "The Impact of the Minimum Wage on Other Wages," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 18(3), pages 359-378.
    15. Arindrajit Dube & T. William Lester & Michael Reich, 2010. "Minimum Wage Effects Across State Borders: Estimates Using Contiguous Counties," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 92(4), pages 945-964, November.
    16. Burdett, Kenneth & Mortensen, Dale T, 1998. "Wage Differentials, Employer Size, and Unemployment," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 39(2), pages 257-273, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Finn Martensen, 2014. "Routinization and the Decline of the U.S. Minimum Wage," Working Paper Series of the Department of Economics, University of Konstanz 2014-16, Department of Economics, University of Konstanz.
    2. Andrea Garnero & Stephan Kampelmann & François Rycx, 2013. "Minimum Wage Systems and Earnings Inequalities: Does Institutional Diversity Matter?," Working Papers CEB 13-021, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
    3. Pasquale Tridico, 2015. "The Rise Of Income Inequality In Oecd Countries," Departmental Working Papers of Economics - University 'Roma Tre' 0201, Department of Economics - University Roma Tre.
    4. Patrick Belser & Uma Rani, 2015. "Minimum wages and inequality," Chapters,in: Labour Markets, Institutions and Inequality, chapter 5, pages 123-146 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    5. François Rycx & Yves Saks & Ilan Tojerow, 2015. "Does Education Raise Productivity and Wages Equally? The Moderating Roles of Age, Gender and Industry," Working Paper Research 281, National Bank of Belgium.
    6. Holmlund, Bertil, 2014. "What do labor market institutions do?," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 62-69.
    7. Alan Manning, 2013. "Minimum Wages: A View from the UK," Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 14(1-2), pages 57-66, February.
    8. Bozena Kaderabkova & Emilie Jasova, 2016. "Character And Intensity Of The Minimum Wage Influence On Unemployment In The Czech Republic And Slovakia," International Journal of Economic Sciences, International Institute of Social and Economic Sciences, vol. 5(1), pages 37-49, March.
    9. Alan Manning, 2016. "The Elusive Employment Effect of the Minimum Wage," CEP Discussion Papers dp1428, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    10. Daniel Aaronson & Brian Phelan, 2016. "Wage Shocks and the Technological Substitution of Low-Wage Jobs," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 17-266, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
    11. Manning, Alan, 2016. "The elusive employment effect of the minimum wage," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 67646, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    12. Sell, Friedrich L. & Öllinger, Michael, 2017. "On the distributional effects of minimum wages: A note," Working Papers in Economics 2017,3, Bundeswehr University Munich, Economic Research Group.
    13. Salverda, Wiemer & Checchi, Daniele, 2014. "Labour-Market Institutions and the Dispersion of Wage Earnings," IZA Discussion Papers 8220, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item


    Minimum Wage; Wage Inequality;

    JEL classification:

    • J38 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Public Policy


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