Do Minimum Wage Laws Affect People Who Are Not Covered? Evidence from Documented and Undocumented, Hourly and Piece Rate Workers in U.S. Agriculture
While a stated goal of minimum wage increases is to benefit low-income workers, some employers are not obligated to provide at least minimum wages to all employees. U.S. farm employers comprise one of these groups. Employees of large farms and H2-A workers (temporary nonimmigrant workers lawfully admitted to perform temporary or seasonal agricultural services) are protected by minimum wage legislation, while other migrant workers (especially those who are paid piece rate) are exempt. Furthermore, U.S. agriculture is characterized by a large percentage of illegal migrants, and workers who are illegal may or may not receive wages above minimum levels. This paper presents a case study, drawing from agriculture, that examines if and how minimum wage laws affect uncovered workers. Analysis examines wages and hours worked as functions of federal and state minimum wages using data from a nationally and regionally representative survey of employed farm workers. Results suggest wage increases for both covered and uncovered workers, greatest gains to those who are formally covered, and gains not being at the expense of hours worked.
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