Category Archives: Minimum Wage

Minimum Wage Increases, Wages, and Low-Wage Employment: Evidence from Seattle

Source: Ekaterina Jardim, Mark C. Long, Robert Plotnick, Emma van Inwegen, Jacob Vigdor, Hilary Wething, National Bureau of Economic Research, NBER Working Paper No. 23532, Issued in June 2017, Revised in May 2018
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From the abstract:
This paper evaluates the wage, employment, and hours effects of the first and second phase-in of the Seattle Minimum Wage Ordinance, which raised the minimum wage from $9.47 to as much as $11 in 2015 and to as much as $13 in 2016. Using a variety of methods to analyze employment in all sectors paying below a specified real hourly wage rate, we conclude that the second wage increase to $13 reduced hours worked in low-wage jobs by 6-7 percent, while hourly wages in such jobs increased by 3 percent. Consequently, total payroll for such jobs decreased, implying that the Ordinance lowered the amount paid to workers in low-wage jobs by an average of $74 per month per job in 2016. Evidence attributes more modest effects to the first wage increase. We estimate an effect of zero when analyzing employment in the restaurant industry at all wage levels, comparable to many prior studies.

At the Wage Floor: Covering Homecare and Early Care and Education Workers in the New Generation of Minimum Wage Laws

Source: Sarah Thomason, Lea Austin, Annette Bernhardt, Laura Dresser, Ken Jacobs and Marcy Whitebook, Center for Labor Research and Education (UC Berkeley), Center for the Study of Child Care Employment (UC Berkeley), and COWS (UW-Madison), May 2018

From the introduction:
In November 2012, fast-food workers in New York went on strike and the Fight for $15 was born. Over the last five years, the movement has lifted wages for more than 17 million workers across the nation by fighting for and winning numerous minimum wage policies (National Employment Law Project 2016).

Substantial minimum wage increases are underway in California, New York, Oregon, and more than 30 cities and counties around the country. In states and cities covered by them, these new minimum wages will increase earnings for 25 to 40 percent of workers (Reich, Allegretto, and Montialoux 2017; Reich et al. 2016). After four decades of wage stagnation and rising inequality, the movement has delivered real, much needed, and meaningful progress in a remarkably short period of time.

Fast food has been iconic in the discussions of the minimum wage, from the influential mid-1990s research that found no negative employment impact of wage increases in the industry, to the fast-food workers who have walked out on strike in cities across the country in recent years (Card and Kruger 1995). But of course the reach of these wage increases extends well beyond fast food to underpaid workers in multiple industries. The dynamics of minimum wage increases vary across industries based on each industry’s specific structure.

Nowhere are the distinct dynamics more pronounced and challenging than for those employed in human services industries. This paper focuses on an important subset of these workers: those who provide homecare and early care and education services to the very young, people with disabilities, and those who are frail due to age or illness. We explain the pressing need to raise these workers’ wages and the unique structure of their industries that results in a funding squeeze for wage increases—at the root of this is the fact that most families are unable to afford all of the homecare and child care they need, never mind pay enough to ensure that workers earn a living wage, and public human services are chronically underfunded.

These workers provide a critical (but too often unrecognized) public good; as such, we argue that a significant public investment is a necessary part of the solution, both to deliver minimum wage increases to these workers and to cover the significant unmet need for care. We provide background about the shared and divergent challenges in the homecare and early care and education industries, as well as review emerging policy initiatives to fund wage increases for homecare and early care and education workers and identify principles for public policy going forward.

Would universal basic income sap the workforce?

Source: Futurity, February 26, 2018

Would universal basic income cause people to leave the workforce? New research suggests it would not. …. In a working paper, associate professor Damon Jones of the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy and assistant professor Ioana Marinescu of the University of Pennsylvania School of Social Policy and Practice (formerly of the University of Chicago) examined the effect of unconditional cash transfers on labor markets using the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend—a payout from a diversified portfolio of invested oil reserve royalties, established in 1982. They concluded unconditional cash transfers had no significant effect on employment, yet it increased part-time work. ….

Related:
The Labor Market Impacts of Universal and Permanent Cash Transfers: Evidence from the Alaska Permanent Fund
Source: Damon Jones, Ioana Marinescu, National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), NBER Working Paper No. 24312, February 2018
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From the abstract:
What are the effects of universal and permanent cash transfers on the labor market? Since 1982, all Alaskan residents have been entitled to a yearly cash dividend from the Alaska Permanent Fund. Using data from the Current Population Survey and a synthetic control method, we show that the dividend had no effect on employment, and increased part-time work by 1.8 percentage points (17 percent). Although theory and prior empirical research suggests that individual cash transfers decrease household labor supply, we interpret our results as evidence that general equilibrium effects of widespread and permanent transfers tend to offset this effect, at least on the extensive margin. Consistent with this story, we show suggestive evidence that tradable sectors experience employment reductions, while non-tradable sectors do not. Overall, our results suggest that a universal and permanent cash transfer does not significantly decrease aggregate employment.

Behind the minimum wage fight, a sweeping failure to enforce the law

Source: Marianne Levine, Politico, February 18, 2018

As Democrats make raising the minimum wage a centerpiece of their 2018 campaigns, and Republicans call for states to handle the issue, both are missing an important problem: Wage laws are poorly enforced, with workers often unable to recover back pay even after the government rules in their favor.

That’s the conclusion of a nine-month investigation by POLITICO, which found that workers are so lightly protected that six states have no investigators to handle minimum-wage violations, while 26 additional states have fewer than 10 investigators. Given the widespread nature of wage theft and the dearth of resources to combat it, most cases go unreported. Thus, an estimated $15 billion in desperately needed income for workers with lowest wages goes instead into the pockets of shady bosses…..

The effects of 137 minimum wage hikes, in one chart

Source: Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post, Wonkblog, February 5, 2018

Last summer, a paper on the effects of Seattle’s minimum-wage increase made national headlines with its conclusion: The change made low-income workers worse off, not better, because it forced employers to cut back on hiring and hours to afford paying higher wages. …..

…. A little more than six months later, and minds have indeed been changed — among them Autor’s. He now says that other recent minimum-wage papers have underscored the limitations of the Seattle study.

Chief among those newer papers is a large analysis of the effects of minimum-wage increases that have occurred since 1979. That paper, co-written by Arindrajit Dube of the University of Massachusetts, was recently presented at the American Economic Association’s annual conference….

Related:
The effect of minimum wages on the total number of jobs: Evidence from the United States using a bunching estimator
Source: Doruk Cengiz, Arindrajit Dube, Attila Lindner, Ben Zipperer, April 30, 2017, Presented at the American Economic Association 2018 meeting

The Resurgence of Universal Basic Income

Source: Kody Carmody, Econ Focus, Third Quarter, 2017

Concerns about the effects of automation have brought an old policy proposal back into the limelight. …. Today, a new set of techno-optimists argue that coming advances in automation and artificial intelligence will finally fulfill Keynes’ prediction, replacing most human labor. Even if machines don’t cause widespread unemployment, they have caused and surely will continue to cause substantial labor market shocks in specific industries. These concerns have breathed new life into the discussion over a policy now called universal basic income, or UBI.

Many variations have been proposed, but UBI generally refers to regular cash payments that would go to individuals regardless of work status or income (that’s the “universal”) and would cover some minimum standard of living (that’s the “basic”). ….

At the same time, questions remain about how it could be done and its effects…..

50 Places Raising the Minimum Wage in 2018

Source: Grant Suneson, Michael B. Sauter and John Harrington, 24/7 Wall St., January 9, 2018

Several dozen American cities, counties, and states raised local minimum wages on January 1. In a few California cities, the minimum wage increased by $2.00 or more per hour. In places like Berkeley, San Francisco, and Mountain View — the latter famously home to the headquarters of Google — the minimum wage increased to $15.00 an hour. Workers rights activists frequently target $15.00 as a living wage.

In addition to the 39 states and municipalities that increased the minimum wage on or around New Year’s Day, 11 more plan to raise the minimum later this year, most of them on July 1. Two — Milpitas, CA and Minneapolis, MN — will raise the minimum twice during the year. Some increases are small, automatic raises meant to account for the inflation-driven rising cost of living, but others are part of larger planned increases that will continue in the years to come.

A Vision for a High-Wage America

Source: Michael McCormack and Jeff Madrick, The Century Foundation, October 16, 2017
From the summary:
America has deliberately chosen to be a low-wage society since the 1970s. This status was not thrust upon it inevitably by technological change or globalization, but instead was the result of deliberate policy choices made over the years. America likewise has the ability to reverse course, pursuing a policy agenda that would put it back on the path toward a high-wage economy. ….

…. This report provides an overview of the current state of the U.S. economy, characterized by a sluggish recovery, stagnant living standards, inequality, increasingly volatile and uncertain incomes, especially for low-income Americans, persistent poverty, and declining benefits. Our review below of the economic data and literature will demonstrate the persistence of reduced opportunity and a low-wage America for millions since the 1970s.

The report also explores the deliberate policy choices that led to the low-wage economy that developed in the late 1970s and was solidified by the 1980s and 1990s. There was only a brief reprieve during the full-employment economy of the late 1990s, when wage growth lifted wages for all income levels; even during this time, anti-inflationary monetary policy reduced the bargaining power of workers relative to capital.

After reviewing the political and academic influences that created a low-wage America, the report proposes alternative policy choices to build a high-wage America that extends prosperity to a broader range of workers. The three main pillars of a high-wage economy identified in this report—public investment and industrial policy, education and training, and labor standards and social supports—will guide the Rediscovering Government Initiative’s research and event agendas in the coming months, as it seeks to build an agenda that can return American workers to prosperity…..

What You Should Know

  • Between 1973 and 2015, productivity increased by 73.4 percent, but hourly compensation increased by only 11.1 percent. And that meager wage growth has happened mostly at the top of the income scale. Since the late 1970s, wage growth has stopped for the eightieth percentile of earners on down, and for much of the wage distribution, earnings have actually fallen.
  • Deliberate policy choices since the 1970s have contributed to this wage stagnation, including the attack on labor unions, cuts to social programs, tight monetary policy, tax cuts and free-market economic policies.
  • U.S. manufacturing work is particularly underpaid when compared to other nations. Manufacturing workers in the United States ranked eighteenth out of twenty-seven OECD nations with available data.
    The high-wage agenda requires new approaches to directly confront underemployment and unemployment that may include government acting as an employer of last resort and support for labor organizing, which is now actively thwarted.
  • Rebuilding the nation’s apprenticeship system that still only reaches less than half a million workers, and translating promising high school career academies into respected vocational and career education system that, among other things, can create inclusive access to well-paid skilled blue collar jobs.
  • White Lawmakers Are Using Alabama’s Racist State Constitution To Keep Black Wages Down

    Source: Bryce Covert, In These Times, November 2017

    Alabama wrote its 1901 constitution to “establish white supremacy.” Workers in a majority-black city say it’s Jim Crow all over again. ….

    Just two years ago, these Fight for $15 workers and their allies won a minimum wage increase to $10.10 in Birmingham. It was short-lived. State lawmakers intervened before the law took effect, passing a preemption bill that undid the work of the City Council and the will of its constituents. Since Alabama doesn’t even have its own minimum wage, minimum-wage workers still make the federal wage of just $7.25 an hour.

    “We want $10.10, we gonna do it again,” the crowd chanted.

    The workers are using protests to pressure corporate employers and state legislators to raise their pay. But they’re not counting on it happening voluntarily. On April 28, 2016, workers in Birmingham filed a lawsuit accusing the state of racial animus and violating the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment guarantee of equal protection.

    The lawsuit offers a novel approach in a struggle taking place across the country as blue cities battle red states for self-determination. Republicans often extoll the virtue of local governmental control, but not, it seems, when it comes to progressive change…..

    Living wages: a US perspective

    Source: Stephanie Luce, Employee Relations, Vol. 39 Issue 6, 2017
    (subscription required)

    From the abstract:
    Purpose
    The purpose of this paper is to provide background on the US living wage movement, with particular attention to recent victories, and also the ways in which the US movement differs from living wage movements in other countries. It begins with some technical distinctions of terms, then analyzes the campaigns and movement for higher wages, and considers some of the challenges the campaigns have faced. It will conclude with some discussion about the future of the movement.

    Design/methodology/approach
    This is a general review of living wage campaigns in the USA. This is based on a review of existing literature and the author’s own prior research and participant observation.

    Findings
    The author argues that the initial living wage movement that began in the early 1990s was limited in scope but successful in building coalitions and political power to launch a much more expansive movement to raise wages in 2012.

    Originality/value
    This paper is a general summary of the last 20 years of living wage campaigns. It does not include new research.