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The Effects of the Minimum Wage on Prices in Brazil

  • Sara Lemos

There is very little evidence on the effects of the minimum wage on prices in the international literature and none whatsoever for developing countries. This paper analyzes the effects of the minimum wage on prices using monthly Brazilian household and price data from 1982 to 2000 aggregated at a regional level. A number of conceptual and identification questions are discussed, for example: (1) Empirical evidence on price effects might help to answer the question of who pays for the higher costs: firms, consumers, or unemployed. The answer to this question is important for the controversial recent minimum wage debate. Employment might not be affected if firms are able to pass through to prices the higher labour costs associated to a minimum wage increase. (2) If the poor are the consumers of minimum wage labour intensive goods, or if these goods represent a large proportion of their consumption bundle, then minimum wage increases might hurt rather than aid the poor. Furthermore, if minimum wage increases are passed on to consumer prices causing inflation, they might again hurt the poor, who disproportionately suffer from inflation. This is particularly so in the presence of hyperinflation; even more so if the minimum wage has been used as anti-inflation policy in addition to its social role, as in Brazil. Robustness checks on the price effects at a regional level, on low and high income consumers and under low inflation are performed. Robust results indicate that minimum wage increases raise overall prices in Brazil. The resulting inflation is the same for the poor and the rich, smaller in low inflation periods, and larger in poorer regions.

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File URL: http://econwpa.repec.org/eps/lab/papers/0403/0403011.pdf
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Paper provided by EconWPA in its series Labor and Demography with number 0403011.

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Length: 25 pages
Date of creation: 04 Mar 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:wpa:wuwpla:0403011
Note: Type of Document - pdf; prepared on win98; pages: 25
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://econwpa.repec.org

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