The Problems With A New Study On Seattle’s $15 Minimum Wage
Author: Michael Saltsman
Publication Date: June 2017
Topics: Minimum Wage
The headlines were ebullient: “Minimum Wage Increase Hasn’t Killed Jobs in Seattle.” So said a report from a team of researchers affiliated with the University of California-Berkeley, timed for the three-year anniversary of the law.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray conveniently had an infographic designed and ready to go for the study’s release. His office excitedly tweeted that the policy had “raised food workers’ pay, without negative impact on employment,” linking to an uploaded study version on the Mayor’s personal .gov website rather than a University domain.
The Mayor’s enthusiasm was understandable: The report “was prepared at the request of the Mayor of Seattle,” according to the authors–apparently as a public relations prop. Less clear is why the study was done in the first place.
The City of Seattle was already funding a highly-qualified, unbiased research team at the University of Washington to do such a report. The team includes a roster of impressive researchers from a wide variety of backgrounds–ranging from Jacob Vigdor, who is a professor at the University and an adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute, to Hillary Wething, who was formerly at the union-backed Economic Policy Institute.
“The average hourly wage for workers affected by the increase jumped from $9.96 to $11.14, but wages likely would have increased some anyway due to Seattle’s overall economy. Meanwhile, although workers were earning more, fewer of them had a job than would have without an increase. Those who did work had fewer hours than they would have without the wage hike.”
“The Times Union was recently provided hundreds of pages of emails among minimum wage advocates, Jacobs and other Berkeley academics, demonstrating a deep level of coordination between academics and advocates….
The Berkeley Labor Center has done at least six other studies on the minimum wage in California municipalities, all showing that a wage increase would be beneficial. In fact, Jacobs could not name a study conducted by Berkeley that said raising wages would have an overall negative impact. …”