Wake Hikes Don’t Lessen Poverty

Senator Kimberly Lightford wants to raise Illinois’ minimum wage to $10 an hour, to make sure “the working poor aren’t ignored or forgotten” (“Minimum wage would go to $10 under Senate bill,” Feb. 11). But economic evidence shows that this wage mandate will do little to help those in need.

Between 2003 and 2007, 28 states raised their minimum wage above the federal level, in hopes of accomplishing a goal similar to Sen. Lightford’s. Yet award-winning research from economists at Cornell University and American University found no evidence that these increases had any impact on overall state poverty rates.

A wage mandate may not reduce poverty, but it does reduce employment for teens and other less-skilled applicants. New research from a labor economist at West Point finds that each 10 percent increase in a state’s minimum wage decreases teen employment by as much as 3.6 percent.

Michael Saltsman
Research Fellow
Employment Policies Institute
Washington, D.C.