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The Effect of the New Minimum Wage Law in a Low-Wage Labor Market

  • Lawrence F. Katz
  • Alan B. Krueger

After nearly a decade without change, legislation that affected the Federal minimum wage in two significant ways took effect on April 1, 1990: (1) the hourly minimum wage was increased from $3.35 to $3.80; and (2) employers were enabled to pay a subminimum wage to teenage workers for up to six months. This paper examines the effect of these changes in the minimum wage law in a low-wage labor market using data from a survey of 167 fast food restaurants in Texas. We draw three main conclusions. First, our survey results indicate that less than 2 percent of fast food restaurants have taken advantage of the youth subminimum, even though 73 percent of the sampled restaurants paid a starting wage of less than $3.80 before the new minimum wage took effect. Second, we find that a sizeable minority of fast food restaurants increased wages for workers by an amount exceeding that necessary to comply with the higher minimum wage. Third, the majority of fast food restaurants in Texas that were directly affected by the minimum wage increase did not report that they attempted to offset their mandated wage increase by cutting fringe benefits or reducing employment.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 3655.

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Date of creation: Mar 1991
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Industrial Relations Research Association, Proceedings, 1991.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3655
Note: LS
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  1. 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.
  2. Richard B. Freeman & Wayne B. Gray & Casey Ichniowski, 1981. "Low-Cost Student Labor: The Use and Effects of the Subminimum Wage Provisions for Full-time Students," NBER Working Papers 0765, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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