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Turning a Blind Eye: Costly Enforcement, Credible Commitment and Minimum Wage Laws

  • Basu, Arnab K.

    ()

    (Cornell University)

  • Chau, Nancy

    ()

    (Cornell University)

  • Kanbur, Ravi

    ()

    (Cornell University)

In many countries, non-compliance with minimum wage legislation is widespread, and authorities may be seen as having turned a blind eye to a legislation that they have themselves passed. But if enforcement is imperfect, how effective can a minimum wage be? And if non-compliance is widespread, why not revise the minimum wage? This paper examines a minimum wage policy in a model with imperfect competition, imperfect enforcement and imperfect commitment, and argues that it is the combination of all three that produces results which are consistent with a wide range of stylized facts that would otherwise be difficult to explain within a single framework. We demonstrate that turning a blind eye can indeed be an equilibrium phenomenon with rational expectations subject to an ex post credibility constraint. Since credible enforcement requires in effect a credible promise to execute ex post a costly transfer of income from employers to workers, a government with an objective function giving full weight to efficiency but none to distribution is shown, paradoxically, to be unable to credibly elicit efficiency improvements via a minimum wage reform.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 2998.

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Length: 37 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2007
Date of revision:
Publication status: published in: Economic Journal, 2010, 120 (543), 244 - 269
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2998
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  9. Pedro Portugal & Ana Rute Cardoso, 2006. "Disentangling the Minimum Wage Puzzle: An Analysis of Worker Accessions and Separations," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 4(5), pages 988-1013, 09.
  10. V. Bhaskar & Ted To, 1996. "Minimum Wages for Ronald McDonald Monopsonies: A Theory of Monopsonistic Competition," Labor and Demography 9603001, EconWPA, revised 21 May 1996.
  11. T.H. Gindling & Katherine Terrell, 2004. "Legal Minimum Wages and the Wages of Formal and Informal Sector Workers in Costa Rica," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 2004-647, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  12. Yaniv, Gideon, 2001. "Minimum Wage Noncompliance and the Employment Decision," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 19(3), pages 596-603, July.
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  19. Chang, Yang-Ming & Ehrlich, Isaac, 1985. "On the Economics of Compliance with the Minimum Wage Law," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(1), pages 84-91, February.
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  21. Maloney, William F. & Nunez, Jairo & Cunningham, Wendy & Fiess, Norbert & Montenegro, Claudio & Murrugarra, Edmundo & Santamaria,Mauricio & Sepulveda, Claudia, 2001. "Measuring the impact of minimum wages : evidence from Latin America," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2597, The World Bank.
  22. James J. Heckman & Carmen Pagés, 2004. "Law and Employment: Lessons from Latin America and the Caribbean," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number heck04-1.
  23. Alan Manning & Ted To, 2002. "Oligopsony and Monopsonistic Competition in Labor Markets," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(2), pages 155-174, Spring.
  24. Flanagan, Robert J, 1989. "Compliance and Enforcement Decisions under the National Labor Relations Act," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 7(3), pages 257-80, July.
  25. 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.
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