Political Animal – The minimum wage, part 2: Casey Mulligan fail edition; or, the $100 minimum wage gambit
The vague suggestion that perhaps that minimum wage really does not “confer benefits on the poor” teeters dangerously close to the “opinions on the shape of the earth differ” school of journalism. Let’s talk specifics here. The impact of the minimum wage, and particularly the impact of the minimum wage on employment, is, as economist John Schmitt has noted, one of the most studied topics in all of economics. The results are most definitely in, and contrary to the clear impression Mulligan is trying to give, there is little reason to believe that the outcome from the years 2007 through 2009 would be any different than the results we have from any other year before that. And contrary to the neoclassical dogma so beloved by University of Chicago types, the overwhelming body of the most rigorous empirical evidence shows little or no relationship between employment and the minimum wage. When there does seem to be a negative relationship, it tends to be extremely small.
A review of the literature, and a summary of various theories as to why Econ 101 minimum wage models don’t turn out to hold up in the real world, can be found in Schmitt’s excellent recent report for the Center for Economic and Policy Research. The reasons are complicated, and there are competing hypotheses, but basically what it comes down to is that the many of the assumptions required for perfect competition in the labor market don’t hold. I know, I know — try to recover from the shock.