A ‘staggering consensus’: Economists on what a $15/hr. minimum wage won’t do

Although our local media seem not to realize it, one subject that economists are in greatest agreement over is the negative unintended consequences of the minimum wage.

The Employment Policies Institute issued a report earlier this year surveying economists’ opinions on various economic impacts from hiking the minimum wage to $15/hr. About the participating economists: Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of the 197 economists specialized in labor economics, and three-fourths worked in academe. Two-thirds had worked as economists for over 20 years (only 11 percent had worked for 10 years or fewer). Most were either Democrats (35 percent) or Independents (46 percent), and only 12 percent were Republicans.

What effects do economists foresee from hiking the minimum wage more than double to $15/hr.? Strong majorities predict:

  • It would have a negative effect on jobs available (77 percent — only 2 percent thought it would have a positive effect)
  • It would have a negative effect on youth employment (84 percent — only 3 percent thought it would have a positive effect)
  • It would have a negative effect on adult employment (56 percent — only 7 percent thought it would have a positive effect)
  • It would make employers look for applicants with greater skills (83 percent — only 1 percent thought it would help people with less skills)
  • It wasn’t asked this year, but in the 2015 survey economists foresaw it would make it harder for small businesses to stay open (67 percent, and not even one economist thought it would make it easier)

In looking over these results again, what strikes me is the staggering consensus among economists about what a $15/hr. minimum wage won’t do:

  • 98 percent don’t think it will create jobs
  • 97 percent don’t think it will increase youth employment
  • 93 percent don’t think it will increase adult employment
  • 99 percent don’t think it will help lower-skilled job seekers
  • 100 percent don’t think it will make it easier for small businesses to stay in business

The costs and benefits of a minimum wage hike should be front and center in the public debate over the idea, don’t you think?

Jon Sanders / Director of Regulatory Studies

Jon Sanders studies regulatory policy, a veritable kudzu of invasive government and unintended consequences. As director of regulatory studies at the John Locke Foundation, Jo...

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