The Corner

Politics & Policy

Don’t Raise the Minimum Wage to $15

It’s the worst part of Biden’s proposal. Michael Strain wrote about it in October, after it came up in a presidential debate:

It’s a slam-dunk case that a $15 minimum wage would be devastating to low-wage workers in much of the country, even after the economy has fully recovered from the Pandemic Recession.

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, half of all workers in 20 states earned less than $18 per hour in 2019. In 35 states, the median hourly wage was less than $20. Setting a minimum wage so close to the median wage would price many workers out of the labor market. Indeed, in 47 states, 25% of all workers earned less than $15 an hour.

Even in high-wage states, Strain believes, the effect would be negative.

A team of economists, including the University of Washington’s Jacob Vigdor, have been studying the employment effects of Seattle’s move to increase its minimum wage to $15. In 2016, Seattle — a high-wage city — had hit a $13 minimum, on its way to $15.

The economists found that this led to a 9% reduction in low-wage jobs. The pay increase it generated didn’t make up for the reduction in employment, and earnings fell for low-wage workers overall.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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