Wash U study seeks nuance in minimum wage debate

A group from Washington University in St. Louis is hopeful that better data will help bring clarity to an issue that divides businesspeople, academics and lawmakers from Jefferson City to Washington: the minimum wage.

The Washington University researchers got detailed but anonymous information about 2 million hourly workers from credit bureau Equifax, which tracks changes in compensation when people switch jobs.

By looking at six states that implemented large minimum wage increases between 2010 and 2015, the researchers were able to see how the changes affected individual workers, providing a level of detail other studies have lacked.

The team’s findings, currently published as a working paper, offer fodder for both sides of the debate.

For proponents: Minimum wage workers benefit from an increase. They get a raise, and they’re no more likely to lose their jobs than similar workers in states where wages didn’t change.

For opponents: The laws of economics still work. Firms hire fewer low-wage workers in the year after a minimum wage change, which means fewer opportunities for low-skilled people trying to enter the labor force.

Read more: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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