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The Behavioral Effects of Minimum Wages

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  • Falk, Armin

    () (briq, University of Bonn)

  • Fehr, Ernst

    () (University of Zurich)

  • Zehnder, Christian

    () (University of Lausanne)

Abstract

The prevailing labor market models assume that minimum wages do not affect the labor supply schedule. We challenge this view in this paper by showing experimentally that minimum wages have significant and lasting effects on subjects' reservation wages. The temporary introduction of a minimum wage leads to a rise in subjects' reservation wages which persists even after the minimum wage has been removed. Firms are therefore forced to pay higher wages after the removal of the minimum wage than before its introduction. As a consequence, the employment effects of removing the minimum wage are significantly smaller than are the effects of its introduction. The impact of minimum wages on reservation wages may also explain the anomalously low utilization of subminimum wages if employers are given the opportunity of paying less than a minimum wage previously introduced. It may further explain why employers often increase workers' wages after an increase in the minimum wage by an amount exceeding that necessary for compliance with the higher minimum. At a more general level, our results suggest that economic policy may affect people's behavior by shaping the perception of what is a fair transaction and by creating entitlement effects.

Suggested Citation

  • Falk, Armin & Fehr, Ernst & Zehnder, Christian, 2005. "The Behavioral Effects of Minimum Wages," IZA Discussion Papers 1625, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp1625
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    monopsony; labor market; fairness; reservation wages; minimum wages; entitlement;

    JEL classification:

    • C91 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Individual Behavior
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • E64 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Incomes Policy; Price Policy
    • J38 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Public Policy
    • J42 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Monopsony; Segmented Labor Markets
    • J58 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Public Policy
    • J68 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers - - - Public Policy

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