IRLE Minimum Wage Group Influences National, State and Local Debates

This corpus of policy briefs, reports and academic research has greatly influenced the widespread public and academic debates about the future of U.S. minimum wage policy. The national media closely follows the release of IRLE publications and is quick to seek the opinions of many of our experts.

Much of the academic minimum wage research at IRLE has been spearheaded by Center for Wage and Employment Dynamics’s (CWED) chair, Professor Michael Reich, and former CWED co-chair Dr. Sylvia Allegretto.

Other minimum wage researchers at IRLE include the Labor Center’s Ken Jacobs and Annette Bernhardt. In addition to the CWED publications listed below, the Labor Center publishes a variety of research and resources on minimum wages, including the Inventory of US City and County Minimum Wage Ordinances.

CWED Minimum Wage Publications

2022
2021
The Economics of a $15 Federal Minimum Wage by 2025
  –  Scholarly Publications

Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, August 2021.

Abstract

The Raise the Wage Act of 2021 (HR 603) would increase the federal minimum wage in five annual steps, from $7.25 to $15 in 2025, with annual increases thereafter indexed to the median wage. The new floor would increase pay for nearly 32 million workers, about 21 percent of the U.S. workforce (Cooper, Mokhiber, & Zipperer, 2021). Nearly one-third of Black workers and one-fourth of Hispanic workers would receive increases. The annual pay increase for year-round full-time workers would average about $3,300 and no full-time worker would earn a poverty wage.

These impressive numbers suggest that a $15 federal minimum wage would constitute a bold policy innovation. It would exceed the previous peak minimum wage— which was about $11.50 (in 2019 dollars), reached in the late 1960s, and equal about 80 percent of the median wage in the lowest-wage states. On the other hand, the current federal minimum lies 37 percent below that previous peak, and about 18 percent below its value in 2009, the year of the last federal increase.

Are Minimum Wage Effects Greater in Low-Wage Areas?
and   –  Scholarly Publications

Industrial Relations, January 2021.

Abstract

Empirical work on the minimum wage typically estimates effects averaged across high- and low-wage areas. Low-wage labor markets could potentially be less able to absorb minimum wage increases, in turn leading to more negative employment effects. In this article, we examine minimum wage effects in low-wage counties, where relative minimum wage ratios reach as high as 0.82, well beyond the state-based ratios in extant studies. Using data from the American Community Survey, the Quarterly Workforce Indicators, and the Quarterly Census on Employment and Wages, we implement event study and difference-in-differences methods, estimating average causal effects for all events in our sample and separately for areas with lower and higher impacts. We find positive wage effects, especially in high-impact counties, but do not detect adverse effects on employment, weekly hours, or annual weeks worked. We do not find negative employment effects among women, Blacks, and/or Hispanics. In high-impact counties, we find substantial declines in household and child poverty. These results inform policy debates about providing exemptions to a $15 federal minimum wage in low-wage areas.

2020
Can Labor Market Policies Reduce Deaths of Despair?
, , and   –  Scholarly Publications

Journal of Health Economics, October 2020.

Abstract

Do minimum wages and the earned income tax credit (EITC) mitigate rising “deaths of despair?” We leverage state variation in these policies over time to estimate event study and difference-in-differences models of deaths due to drug overdose, suicide, and alcohol-related causes. Our causal models find no significant effects on drug or alcohol-related mortality, but do find significant reductions in non-drug suicides. A 10 percent minimum wage increase reduces non-drug suicides among low-educated adults by 2.7 percent, and the comparable EITC figure is 3.0 percent. Placebo tests and event-study models support our causal research design. Increasing both policies by 10 percent would likely prevent a combined total of more than 700 suicides each year.

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