As you may have heard by now, Seattle has adopted a city minimum wage of $15 an hour. As with all minimum wage increases, this one will be phased in over three to seven years depending on the size of the business.
Arindrajit Dube, a rising star in labor economics has an excellent editorial on the proposal that I would encourage you all to read.
One of the great challenges of public policy work as a labor economist is squaring off in the media with business lobbyists and/or public relations professionals for industry associations who consider “nuance” to be a dirty word. Being honest about what we do and don’t know about a policy or labor market trend is right and honorable—but often a loser in policy debates when our opponents have no ethical qualms about being misleading. Still, at the end of the day, the best and most effective policy work is tethered to research and is open to changing course when the policy doesn’t lead to good outcomes.
In this regard, Dube, who more than most commentators can take credit for advancing our understanding of the impacts of the minimum wage, stands out for his measured honesty and pragmatism:
Finally, we should acknowledge the limits of our knowledge about how local economies respond to a minimum wage. In my opinion, the best evidence suggests that state and federal minimum wage increases have had a very small impact on employment, while moderately reducing turnover, poverty and inequality. The limited evidence from other cities corroborates this. However, we cannot reliably apply those estimates to predict the effects of an increase the size of Seattle’s. The good news is that the somewhat long ramp-up period in Seattle will provide us with an occasion to learn from this experiment and offer opportunities for course corrections.
Dube is a great model for aspiring economists and public policy researchers, not to mention policymakers.
While Seattle begins its bold effort to reduce inequality the campaign for a more modest increase in the minimum wage to at least $10.10 an hour here in Pennsylvania continues. Remember to reach out to your representatives in the House and Senate and share this petition with your friends.