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The Wages of Journalistic Incompetence

Here’s a letter to the New York Times:

You label the prediction that raising the minimum wage will destroy jobs for low-skilled workers “a party-line theory that most economists agree has been discredited” (“The Campaign for a Bigger Paycheck,” Jan. 2).  You are wrong.

If you consult your own publication you’ll discover that on March 4, 2013, Catherine Rampell reported that 34 percent of economists – a plurality of those surveyed – agreed that raising the minimum wage to $9 per hour “would make it noticeably harder for low-skilled workers to find employment” (“What Economists Think About Raising the Minimum Wage“).  Twenty-four percent of economists were uncertain, and 32 percent disagreed.

Thirty-two percent of economists is not “most economists.”

Further, the paper to which you link in support of your conclusion (1) offers – contrary to the impression conveyed by your editorial – no survey evidence of economists’ opinions about the employment effects of the minimum wage, and (2) reaches conclusions favorable to the minimum wage only by dismissing the most careful contrary research* with the charge that it is “considerably more subjective” than research favorable to the minimum wage.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

* David Neumark and William L. Wascher, Minimum Wages (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2008).

UPDATE: Caroline Baum has more.


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