The recent article on the minimum wage in Massachusetts (“Wage battles shift to states,” Page A1, Jan. 13) calls proper attention to the role states are playing in adjusting minimum wages in light of federal inaction. However, these battles have been taking place in the states for decades.
In fact, because states have enacted their own minimum wages higher than the federal level, we know a great deal about their economic impact. These state differences create the perfect natural experiment to compare employment and other effects in states or counties next to each other, with and without minimum wage increases. The evidence consistently shows that the impacts of increases in the minimum wage are, at worst, negligible and, at best, positive, boosting productivity and making workers better off.
The reporter writes, “Economists have not reached a consensus on the effects of a minimum wage increase.” Economists almost never reach consensus on anything because, like politicians, they too are ideologically divided. However, there is a great deal of evidence that indicates that boosting the minimum wage makes workers better off without making businesses worse off.
The writer is a labor economist and professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Boston.