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Revisiting the Minimum Wage-Employment Debate: Throwing Out the Baby with the Bathwater?

  • David Neumark
  • J.M. Ian Salas
  • William Wascher

We revisit the minimum wage-employment debate, which is as old as the Department of Labor. In particular, we assess new studies claiming that the standard panel data approach used in much of the "new minimum wage research" is flawed because it fails to account for spatial heterogeneity. These new studies use research designs intended to control for this heterogeneity and conclude that minimum wages in the United States have not reduced employment. We explore the ability of these research designs to isolate reliable identifying information and test the untested assumptions in this new research about the construction of better control groups. Our evidence points to serious problems with these research designs. Moreover, new evidence based on methods that let the data identify the appropriate control groups leads to stronger evidence of disemployment effects, with teen employment elasticities near −0.3. We conclude that the evidence still shows that minimum wages pose a tradeoff of higher wages for some against job losses for others, and that policymakers need to bear this tradeoff in mind when making decisions about increasing the minimum wage.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18681.

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Date of creation: Jan 2013
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Publication status: published as David Neumark & J. M. Ian Salas & William Wascher, 2014. "Revisiting the Minimum Wage–Employment Debate: Throwing Out the Baby with the Bathwater?," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 67(2.5), pages 608-648, May.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18681
Note: LS PE
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  1. David Neumark & William Wascher, 2004. "Minimum wages, labor market institutions, and youth employment: A cross-national analysis," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 57(2), pages 223-248, January.
  2. Mincer, Jacob, 1976. "Unemployment Effects of Minimum Wages," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 84(4), pages S87-104, August.
  3. 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.
  4. David Card, 1992. "Using Regional Variation in Wages to Measure the Effects of the Federal Minimum Wage," Working Papers 680, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  5. David Card, 1992. "Do minimum wages reduce employment? A case study of California, 1987û1989," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 46(1), pages 38-54, October.
  6. Joseph Sabia, 2009. "The Effects of Minimum Wage Increases on Retail Employment and Hours: New Evidence from Monthly CPS Data," Journal of Labor Research, Springer, vol. 30(1), pages 75-97, March.
  7. Cogley, Timothy & Nason, James M., 1995. "Effects of the Hodrick-Prescott filter on trend and difference stationary time series Implications for business cycle research," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 19(1-2), pages 253-278.
  8. David Neumark & William L. Wascher, 2008. "Minimum Wages," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262141027, June.
  9. Morten O. Ravn & Harald Uhlig, 2002. "On adjusting the Hodrick-Prescott filter for the frequency of observations," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 84(2), pages 371-375.
  10. Joseph J. Sabia & Richard V. Burkhauser & Benjamin Hansen, 2012. "Are the Effects of Minimum Wage Increases Always Small? New Evidence from a Case Study of New York State," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 65(2), pages 350-376, April.
  11. David Neumark & William Wascher, 1992. "Employment effects of minimum and subminimum wages: Panel data on state minimum wage laws," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 46(1), pages 55-81, October.
  12. David Fairris & Leon Fernandez Bujanda, 2008. "The Dissipation of Minimum Wage Gains for Workers through Labor-Labor Substitution: Evidence from the Los Angeles Living Wage Ordinance," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 75(2), pages 473-496, October.
  13. Baker, Michael & Benjamin, Dwayne & Stanger, Shuchita, 1999. "The Highs and Lows of the Minimum Wage Effect: A Time-Series Cross-Section Study of the Canadian Law," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 17(2), pages 318-50, April.
  14. David Card, 1992. "Do Minimum Wages Reduce Employment? A Case Study of California, 1987–89," ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 46(1), pages 38-54, October.
  15. Jeffrey P. Thompson, 2009. "Using Local Labor Market Data to Re-Examine the Employment Effects of the Minimum Wage," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 62(3), pages 343-366, April.
  16. 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.
  17. David Neumark & DMark Schweitzer & DaWilliam Wascher, 2004. "Minimum Wage Effects throughout the Wage Distribution," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(2).
  18. Allegretto, Sylvia & Dube, Arindrajit & Reich, Michael, 2010. "Do Minimum Wages Really Reduce Teen Employment? Accounting for Heterogeneity and Selectivity in State Panel Data," Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, Working Paper Series qt7jq2q3j8, Institute of Industrial Relations, UC Berkeley.
  19. Addison, John T. & Blackburn, McKinley L. & Cotti, Chad D., 2011. "Minimum Wage Increases in a Soft U.S. Economy," Economics Series 273, Institute for Advanced Studies.
  20. Abadie, Alberto & Diamond, Alexis & Hainmueller, Jens, 2010. "Synthetic Control Methods for Comparative Case Studies: Estimating the Effect of California’s Tobacco Control Program," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 105(490), pages 493-505.
  21. Addison, John T. & Blackburn, McKinley L. & Cotti, Chad D., 2009. "Do minimum wages raise employment? Evidence from the U.S. retail-trade sector," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 397-408, August.
  22. John M. Peterson, 1959. "Employment effects of state minimum wages for women: Three historical cases re-examined," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 12(3), pages 406-422, April.
  23. John T. Addison & McKinley L. Blackburn & Chad D. Cotti, 2008. "The Effect of Minimum Wages on Labor Market Outcomes: County-Level Estimates from the Restaurant-and-Bar Sector," Working Paper Series 02-08, The Rimini Centre for Economic Analysis, revised Jan 2008.
  24. John M. Peterson, 1957. "Employment Effects of Minimum Wages, 1938-50," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 412.
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