For decades, those opposed to raising the
minimum wage have portrayed it as a “job killer,” arguing that when employers
are forced to pay more, they employ fewer people.
Increasingly though public support for such a
position is diminishing. In fact, during these deeply polarizing times, raising
the minimum wage is an issue with widespread, bi-partisan backing. Between 67
and 86 percent of voters support an increase in the minimum
wage, according to polls taken over the past few years.
New research reinforces this majority view. At
a recent event cosponsored by the Center for American Progress and the National
Employment Law Project, titled Raising the Minimum Wage, Rebuilding the Economy, a panel
of experts explained rigorous economic research that further refutes the “job
killer” construct and reviewed public opinion polling on
In the 1960s and 70s there was general
consensus that the minimum wage would hurt employment, but in the past two decades
empirical research has debunked this theory. Two papers coming out of the
University of California/Berkeley, “Minimum Wage Effects Across State
Borders” and “Do Minimum Wages Really Reduce Teen
Employment?,” add depth and breadth to the evidence
that raising the minimum wage does not have the negative effect on employment
that economists once thought it did.
The papers look at county-level employment
data as well as national statistics. Differing state minimum wage laws provide
empirical evidence of how wage legislation affects the labor market. And the
proof is in the pudding: Where minimum wages have increased there has not been
a loss of employment compared with labor markets where there was no increase.
Panelists also explained how raising the minimum
wage is good for economic recovery. Higher wages puts more money into the hands
of people who are most likely to spend it quickly and stimulate the economy. Polling
shows that the public intuitively understands this, and research on wages over
the three most recent recessions backs it up. As Helen Neuborne from the Ford
Foundation put it, raising the minimum wage is a “win-win policy” for working
families and our country’s economy.
In states across the country where minimum
wage initiatives are being introduced, public opinion and vote tallies are
often strong. In Maryland, where 62 percent of voters say that the economy is
in trouble, 79 percent are in favor of raising the minimum wage to $10, with more
than half saying it would help the economy. In Missouri an initiative to raise
the minimum wage and index it to inflation passed by a more than a three-to-one
margin, with strong support across party lines.
Few economic policies have such widespread
public support. As the next round of elections approaches, politicians should
keep that in mind as they present their plans for economic recovery.
Posted by Milla
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