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Busting Right-Wing Talking Point, 'Groundbreaking' Study Shows Federal $15 Minimum Wage Would Not Cause Job Losses in Low-Wage States

"A $15 federal minimum wage by 2024 will have widespread positive effects for working women and men, kids and communities of color, without causing any job loss."

Several workers in the Fight for $15 movement took their opposition to downtown New York's McDonald's during the lunchtime rush on February 13, 2017. (Photo: Erik Mcgregor/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

New research published Tuesday by economists at the University of California, Berkeley showed that raising the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2024 would significantly reduce poverty without causing job losses in low-wage states—a finding that further undermines fearmongering by conservatives and centrist Democrats.

"Put in practical terms, the new Berkeley study is further evidence that workers, and not the nation's conservative columnists, are right."
—Sarah Jones

Anna Godoey and Michael Reich of U.C. Berkeley's Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics, the authors of the study (pdf), examined 51 minimum wage increases in 750 low-wage counties across 45 states between 2004 and 2016.

The researchers found "substantial declines in household and child poverty" in low-wage areas—such as Mississippi and Alabama—without detecting any negative impact on employment or hours.

"The results of our research show that we can raise pay to $15, even in low-cost states," Godoey said in a statement. "The data show that the minimum wage has positive effects, especially in areas where the highest proportion of workers received minimum wage increases."

The "groundbreaking" new research comes as so-called moderate Democrats in the House are working to water down legislation that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2024.

Led by Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), a group of around a dozen Democrats is pushing for a "regional wage" adjusted to local costs of living. Raising the federal minimum wage to $15 across the board, they argue, would result in job losses.

"More than doubling the wage over five years is going to result in lost jobs," an aide to a member of Congress in favor of a regional wage bill told Politico in April. "A lot of people would prefer to have a $10 wage than no job."

Reich said in a statement that his research provides strong evidence against this argument.

"These new findings considerably extend our knowledge of the effects of minimum wage increases in the lowest wage areas of the U.S.," Reich said in a statement. "They suggest that a $15 federal minimum wage by 2024 will have widespread positive effects for working women and men, kids and communities of color, without causing any job loss."

As New York Magazine's Sarah Jones wrote Tuesday, "Godoey and Reich's research isn't anomalous."

Previous research from U.C. Berkeley "found that six major U.S. cities—Oakland, Chicago, and San Francisco among them—didn't experience significant job losses after they raised their minimum wages," Jones noted.

"Put in practical terms, the new Berkeley study is further evidence that workers, and not the nation's conservative columnists, are right," Jones added. "Bills like the Raise the Wage Act of 2019, which would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024, aren't just liberal performance art but sound policies that would meaningfully reduce poverty without driving vulnerable people out of work."

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