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Less-than-Minimum Good Sense

Here’s a letter to the New York Times:


Jason Cherkis argues that a 107 percent increase in the federal minimum wage will reduce suicides (“What Happens to Your Mental Health When You Can’t Pay Your Rent?” March 10). But in doing so he completely ignores the main argument that economists have long raised against minimum wages – namely, that such legislation casts some low-skilled workers into the ranks of the unemployed. For at least two related reasons, failure to as much as mention this effect is inexcusable.

First, as recently reported by economists David Neumark and Peter Shirley, the bulk of studies of minimum-wage hikes find nontrivial negative employment effects. Second, however difficult it is to live on an hourly income of $7.25, surely it’s far more difficult to live on an hourly income of $0.

If it’s true that low incomes promote suicide, and if the bulk of economic research is correct that hikes in the minimum wage slash many workers’ incomes down to $0, then raising the minimum wage is likely to be literally lethal.

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

(HT Alice Temnick for alerting me to this op-ed.)


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