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Do minimum wages in Latin America and the Caribbean matter ? Evidence from 19 countries

  • Kristensen, Nicolai
  • Cunningham, Wendy

Despite the existence of minimum wage legislation in most Latin American countries, there is little empirical evidence demonstrating its impact on the distribution of wages. In this study the authors analyze cross-country data for 19 Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries to gain an understanding of if and how minimum wages affect wage distributions in LAC countries. Although there is no single minimum wage institution in the LAC region, the authors find regional trends. Minimum wages affect the wage distribution in both the formal and, especially, the informal sector, both at the minimum wage and at multiples of the minimum. The minimum does not uniformly benefit low-wage workers: in countries where the minimum wage is relatively low compared to mean wages, the minimum wage affects the more disadvantaged segments of the labor force, namely informal sector workers, women, young and older workers, and the low skilled, but in countries where the minimum wage is relatively high compared to the wage distribution, it primarily affects wages of the high skilled. This indicates that the minimum does not generally lift the wages of all, but instead, it offers a wage into which employers can"lock in"wages that are already near that level. Thus, minimum wage legislation is more far-reaching than originally thought, affecting both the uncovered informal sector and those earning above the minimum. In addition, the relative level of the minimum wage is important for determining whose wages are affected.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 3870.

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Date of creation: 01 Mar 2006
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:3870
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  1. William Maloney & Jairo Mendez, 2004. "Measuring the Impact of Minimum Wages. Evidence from Latin America," NBER Chapters, in: Law and Employment: Lessons from Latin America and the Caribbean, pages 109-130 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Gabriel Ulyssea & Miguel N. Foguel, 2006. "Efeitos do Salário Mínimo Sobre o Mercado de Trabalho Brasileiro," Discussion Papers 1168, Instituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada - IPEA.
  3. David Card & Alan Krueger, 1993. "Minimum Wages and Employment: A Case Study of the Fast Food Industry in New Jersey and Pennsylvania," Working Papers 694, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
  4. Bell, Linda A, 1997. "The Impact of Minimum Wages in Mexico and Colombia," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 15(3), pages S102-35, July.
  5. Richard V. Burkhauser & Kenneth A. Couch & David C. Wittenburg, 1996. "Who gets what from minimum wage hikes: A re-estimation of Card and Krueger's distributional analysis in "Myth and Measurement: The New Economics of the Minimum Wage."," Industrial and Labor Relations Review, ILR Review, Cornell University, ILR School, vol. 49(3), pages 547-552, April.
  6. Sidney Webb, 1912. "The Economic Theory of a Legal Minimum Wage," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 20, pages 973.
  7. David Neumark & William Wascher, 2002. "Do Minimum Wages Fight Poverty?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 40(3), pages 315-333, July.
  8. Maloney, William, 2003. "Informality revisited," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2965, The World Bank.
  9. Brown, Charles, 1999. "Minimum wages, employment, and the distribution of income," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 32, pages 2101-2163 Elsevier.
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