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Do Minimum Wages Reduce Employment? A Case Study of California, 1987-89


  • David Card


In July 1988 California's minimum wage rose from $3.35 to $4.25. In the previous year, 11 percent of California workers and fully one-half of its teenage workers earned less than the new state minimum. The state-specific nature of the California increase provides a valuable opportunity to study the effects of minimum wage legislation. As in a conventional non-experimental program evaluation, labor market trends in other states can be used to infer what would have happened in California in the absence of the law. Drawing on published labor market statistics and microdata samples from the Current Population Survey, I apply this strategy to estimate the effects of the rise in the minimum wage on various groups and industries in the state. Special attention is paid to teenage workers and employees in retail trade. The results are striking. The increase in the minimum raised wages of teenagers and other low wage workers by 5-10 percent. Contrary to conventional predictions, however, the employment rate of teenage workers rose, while their school enrollment rate fell.

Suggested Citation

  • David Card, 1991. "Do Minimum Wages Reduce Employment? A Case Study of California, 1987-89," NBER Working Papers 3710, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:3710
    Note: LS

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Edward M. Gramlich, 1976. "Impact of Minimum Wages on Other Wages, Employment, and Family Incomes," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 7(2), pages 409-462.
    2. Brown, Charles & Gilroy, Curtis & Kohen, Andrew, 1982. "The Effect of the Minimum Wage on Employment and Unemployment," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 20(2), pages 487-528, June.
    3. repec:fth:prinin:280 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Sullivan, Daniel, 1989. "Monopsony Power in the Market for Nurses," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 32(2), pages 135-178, October.
    5. McKinley L. Blackburn & David E. Bloom & Richard B. Freeman, 1989. "The Declining Economic Position of Less-Skilled American Males," NBER Working Papers 3186, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Ashenfelter, Orley & Smith, Robert S, 1979. "Compliance with the Minimum Wage Law," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(2), pages 333-350, April.
    7. Katz, L.F. & Krueger, A.B, 1991. "The Effect Of The New Minimum Wage Law In A Low-Wage Labor Market," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1544, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
    8. 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.
    9. Lawrence Katz & Alan Krueger, 1991. "The Effect of the New Minimum Wage Law in a Low-Wage Labor Market," Working Papers 660, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
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    Cited by:

    1. David Neumark & William Wascher, 1999. "A Cross-National Analysis of the Effects of Minimum Wages on Youth Employment," NBER Working Papers 7299, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Gruber, Jonathan, 1997. "The Incidence of Payroll Taxation: Evidence from Chile," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(3), pages 72-101, July.
    3. Neumark, David & Wascher, William, 1995. "Minimum Wage Effects on Employment and School Enrollment," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 13(2), pages 199-206, April.
    4. Danziger, Leif, 2006. "The Elasticity of Labor Demand and the Optimal Minimum Wage," IZA Discussion Papers 2360, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    5. Richard Dickens & Stephen Machin & Alan Manning, 1994. "The Effects of Minimum Wages on Employment: Theory and Evidence from the US," NBER Working Papers 4742, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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