Spotlight Exclusives

The Public Supports Raising the Minimum Wage. What about the Politicians?

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For decades, those opposed to raising theminimum wage have portrayed it as a “job killer,” arguing that when employersare forced to pay more, they employ fewer people.

Increasingly though public support for such aposition is diminishing. In fact, during these deeply polarizing times, raisingthe minimum wage is an issue with widespread, bi-partisan backing. Between 67and 86 percent of voters support an increase in the minimumwage, according to polls taken over the past few years.

New research reinforces this majority view. Ata recent event cosponsored by the Center for American Progress and the NationalEmployment Law Project, titled Raising the Minimum Wage, Rebuilding the Economy, a panelof experts explained rigorous economic research that further refutes the “jobkiller” construct and reviewed public opinion polling onthe subject.

In the 1960s and 70s there was generalconsensus that the minimum wage would hurt employment, but in the past two decadesempirical research has debunked this theory. Two papers coming out of theUniversity of California/Berkeley, “Minimum Wage Effects Across StateBorders” and “Do Minimum Wages Really Reduce TeenEmployment?,” add depth and breadth to the evidencethat raising the minimum wage does not have the negative effect on employmentthat economists once thought it did.

The papers look at county-level employmentdata as well as national statistics. Differing state minimum wage laws provideempirical evidence of how wage legislation affects the labor market. And theproof is in the pudding: Where minimum wages have increased there has not beena loss of employment compared with labor markets where there was no increase.

Panelists also explained how raising the minimumwage is good for economic recovery. Higher wages puts more money into the handsof people who are most likely to spend it quickly and stimulate the economy. Pollingshows that the public intuitively understands this, and research on wages overthe three most recent recessions backs it up. As Helen Neuborne from the FordFoundation put it, raising the minimum wage is a “win-win policy” for workingfamilies and our country۪s economy.

In states across the country where minimumwage initiatives are being introduced, public opinion and vote tallies areoften strong. In Maryland, where 62 percent of voters say that the economy isin trouble, 79 percent are in favor of raising the minimum wage to $10, with morethan half saying it would help the economy. In Missouri an initiative to raisethe minimum wage and index it to inflation passed by a more than a three-to-onemargin, with strong support across party lines.

Few economic policies have such widespreadpublic support. As the next round of elections approaches, politicians shouldkeep that in mind as they present their plans for economic recovery.

Posted by Milla



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