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Optimal minimum wage in a competitive economy


  • Arantza Gorostiaga
  • Juan Francisco Rubio-Ramírez


This paper studies the use of a minimum wage law to implement the optimal redistribution policy when a distorting tax-transfer scheme is also available. The authors build a static general equilibrium model with a Ramsey planner making decisions on taxes, transfers, and minimum wage levels. Workers are assumed to differ only in their productivity. The authors find that optimal redistribution may imply the use of only taxes and transfers, only a minimum wage, or the proper combination of both policies. The key factor driving their results is the reaction of the demand for low-skilled labor to the minimum wage law. Hence, an optimal minimum wage appears to be most likely when low-skilled households are scarce, the complementarity between the two types of workers is large, or the difference in productivity is small.

Suggested Citation

  • Arantza Gorostiaga & Juan Francisco Rubio-Ramírez, 2004. "Optimal minimum wage in a competitive economy," FRB Atlanta Working Paper 2004-30, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedawp:2004-30

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Dreze, Jacques H. & Gollier, Christian, 1993. "Risk sharing on the labour market and second-best wage rigidities," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 37(8), pages 1457-1482, December.
    2. Juan J. Dolado & Florentino Felgueroso & Juan F. Jimeno, 2000. "The Role of the Minimum Wage in the Welfare State: An Appraisal," Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics (SJES), Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics (SSES), vol. 136(III), pages 223-245, September.
    3. Stephen Machin & Alan Manning, 1992. "Minimum Wages," CEP Discussion Papers dp0080, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
    4. Boadway, Robin & Cuff, Katherine, 2001. "A minimum wage can be welfare-improving and employment-enhancing," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 553-576, March.
    5. Marceau, Nicolas & Boadway, Robin, 1994. " Minimum Wage Legislation and Unemployment Insurance as Instruments for Redistribution," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 96(1), pages 67-81.
    6. Mikhail Golosov & Narayana Kocherlakota & Aleh Tsyvinski, 2003. "Optimal Indirect and Capital Taxation," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 70(3), pages 569-587.
    7. Gorostiaga, Arantza, 2003. "Should fiscal policy be different in a non-competitive framework?," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 50(6), pages 1311-1331, September.
    8. Lang, Kevin & Kahn, Shulamit, 1998. "The effect of minimum-wage laws on the distribution of employment: theory and evidence," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(1), pages 67-82, July.
    9. Lucas, Robert Jr. & Stokey, Nancy L., 1983. "Optimal fiscal and monetary policy in an economy without capital," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 12(1), pages 55-93.
    10. Dickens, Richard & Machin, Stephen & Manning, Alan, 1999. "The Effects of Minimum Wages on Employment: Theory and Evidence from Britain," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(1), pages 1-22, January.
    11. Swinnerton, Kenneth A, 1996. "Minimum Wages in an Equilibrium Search Model with Diminishing Returns to Labor in Production," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 14(2), pages 340-355, April.
    12. Cahuc, Pierre & Michel, Philippe, 1996. "Minimum wage unemployment and growth," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(7), pages 1463-1482, August.
    13. Guesnerie, Roger & Roberts, Kevin, 1987. "Minimum wage legislation as a second best policy," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(1-2), pages 490-498.
    14. Rebitzer, James B. & Taylor, Lowell J., 1995. "The consequences of minimum wage laws Some new theoretical ideas," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(2), pages 245-255, February.
    15. Askenazy, Philippe, 2003. "Minimum wage, exports and growth," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 47(1), pages 147-164, February.
    16. Gorostiaga Arantza, 2005. "Optimal Fiscal Policy with Rationing in the Labor Market," The B.E. Journal of Macroeconomics, De Gruyter, vol. 5(1), pages 1-22, July.
    17. Bhaskar, V & To, Ted, 1999. "Minimum Wages for Ronald McDonald Monopsonies: A Theory of Monopsonistic Competition," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 109(455), pages 190-203, April.
    18. Gorostiaga Alonso, Miren Arantzazu, 2002. "Optimal Fiscal Policy with Rationing in the Labor Market," DFAEII Working Papers 2002-29, University of the Basque Country - Department of Foundations of Economic Analysis II.
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    Cited by:

    1. Arantza Gorostiaga & Rubio-Ramírez Juan F., 2008. "Fiscal policy and minimum wage for redistribution: an equivalence result," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 5(11), pages 1-8.
    2. Larrain, Mauricio & Poblete, Joaquin, 2007. "Age-differentiated minimum wages in developing countries," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 777-797, November.

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