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Evaluating Living Wage Laws in the United States: Good Intentions and Economic Reality in Conflict?


  • Robert Pollin


This paper first examines the question “what is a living wage” and provides a range of specific dollar amounts derived a conceptual assessment of the term. I then provide a series of cost estimates of living wage laws in various cities. Based on these cost estimates, I examine a set of alternative adjustments that covered firms could make to absorb these costs, including raising prices and productivity, redistributing the firm’s income more equally, laying off employees and relocating out of the area covered by the law. I draw upon both prospective and retrospective evidence to reach an overall assessment of the benefits of living wage laws relative to their costs.

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  • Robert Pollin, 2003. "Evaluating Living Wage Laws in the United States: Good Intentions and Economic Reality in Conflict?," Working Papers wp61, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
  • Handle: RePEc:uma:periwp:wp61

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Timothy J. Bartik, 2003. "Local Economic Development Policies," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles 03-91, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
    2. Timothy J. Bartik, "undated". "The Effects of State and Local Taxes on Economic Development: A Review of Recent Research," Upjohn Working Papers and Journal Articles tjb1992edq, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.
    3. Timothy J. Bartik, 1991. "Who Benefits from State and Local Economic Development Policies?," Books from Upjohn Press, W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research, number wbsle, November.
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