Raising Minimum Wage to $15 Will Likely Cause 16% Rise in Low-Skilled Job Loss

(p. A15) A recent Congressional Budget Office report estimated that 1.4 million jobs would be lost if a new $15 federal minimum wage is signed into law. Advocates were quick to dismiss the CBO’s conclusion. “It is not a stretch to say that a new consensus has emerged among economists that minimum wage increases have raised wages without substantial job loss,” said Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute, which has also circulated a letter signed by economics Nobel laureates and others making the same claim.

. . .

To provide an accurate reading of the research, Peter Shirley and I surveyed the authors of nearly all U.S. studies estimating the effects of minimum wages on employment published in the past 30 years. We asked them to report to us their best estimate of the employment effect, measured as the “elasticity,” or the percent change in employment for each 1% change in the minimum wage. Most authors responded, and in the few cases in which they did not, we pulled this estimate from their study.

The results are stark. Across all studies, 79% report that minimum wages reduced employment. In 46% of studies the negative effect was statistically significant. In contrast, only 21% of studies found small positive effects of minimum wages on employment, and in only a minuscule percentage (4%) was the evidence statistically significant. A simplistic but useful calculation shows that the odds of nearly 80% of studies finding negative employment effects if the true effect is zero is less than one in a million.

Across all the studies, the average employment elasticity is about minus-0.15, which means, for example, that a 10% increase in the minimum wage reduces employment of the low-skilled by 1.5%. Extrapolating this to a $15 minimum wage, this 107% increase in the states where the federal minimum wage of $7.25 now prevails would imply a 16% decline in low-skilled employment (broadly consistent with the recent CBO study). That sounds like a substantial job loss.

For the full commentary, see:

David Neumark. “Raising the Minimum Wage Definitely Costs Jobs.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, March 19, 2021): A15.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date March 18, 2021, and has the title “Raising the Minimum Wage Will Definitely Cost Jobs.”)

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