Hiking the Minimum Wage Killed Almost as Many Low-End Jobs as Did the Economic Collapse
The Victims of Minimum Wage Hikes
By Preston Cooper
Hiking the minimum wage killed almost as many low-end jobs as did the economic collapse.
This is University of California-San Diego Professor Jeffrey Clemens’ conclusion from his just publishedsupplement to his landmark 2014 study. He says that federal minimum wage hikes from 2006 to 2009 accounted for 43 percent of the decline in employment among young, low-skilled workers during the Great Recession.
Young, low-skilled workers— defined as individuals between 16 and 30 without a high school degree— are the most likely to be hurt by minimum wage hikes because they are the least likely to have skills that employers consider valuable. Businesses might be willing to take on these individuals at low wages in order to train them before moving them up to higher-paying work. But when the government sets a high minimum wage, that first step on the career path might disappear.
Clemens’ new study confirms this longstanding theory. Young, low-skilled workers were hit hard by the minimum wage, while most other groups were relatively unaffected.
Several strengths set the Clemens study and its predecessor (coauthored by Michael Wither) apart from a large body of research on the minimum wage. Not least among them is its time frame. The paper covers a seven-year period from 2006 to 2012, unlike other studies such as the oft-cited 1994 paper by David Card and Alan Krueger. That paper, which found no negative effect of the minimum wage, only looked at a period of eleven months.
The time frame is critical because the damaging effects of minimum wage increases are often delayed. Immediately after a wage hike, businesses usually do not wish to significantly alter their business plans. Instead of laying off workers, they might raise prices or cut back on fringe benefits. But after one or two years, fewer businesses will open, existing businesses will close faster, and fewer jobs will be available.