The Effects of a $15 Minimum Wage in New York State


Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York has proposed economy-wide minimum wages of $15 in New York City by 2019 and in the balance of the state by mid-2021. In this prospective study, we assess the impact of the proposal on workers, businesses, and consumers to estimate the net effect of the policy proposal on employment over the phase-in period.

Critics of minimum wage increases often cite factors that will reduce employment, such as automation or reduced sales, as firms raise prices to recoup their increased costs. Advocates often argue that better-paid workers are less likely to quit and will be more productive, and that a minimum wage increase positively affects jobs and economic output as workers can increase their consumer spending. Here we take into account all of these often competing factors to assess the net effects of the policy.

Our analysis applies a new structural labor market model that we created specifically to analyze the effects of a $15 minimum wage. We take into account how workers, businesses, and consumers are affected and respond to such a policy and we integrate these responses in a unified manner. In doing so, we draw upon modern economic analyses of labor and product markets. As we explain in the report, the main effects of minimum wages are made up of substitution, scale, and income effects. The figure below provides a guide to the structure of our model.

Our data are drawn from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and from other Census and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics datasets. We also make use of the extensive research conducted by economists—including ourselves—in recent years on minimum wages, and upon research on related economic topics.

Our estimate of the effects of a $15 minimum wage is also based upon existing research on labor markets,business operations, and consumer markets. Our estimate compares employment numbers if the policy is adopted to employment numbers if the policy is not adopted. Other factors that may affect employment by 2021 are therefore outside the scope of our analysis. We have successfully tested our model with a set of robustness exercises. In order to make our study manageable, we include in our analysis the sectors that have already been granted pay increases by executive orders.