Anyone who has a basic understanding of elementary-level arithmetic and some common sense can easily explain why raising the minimum wage is bad for employment levels. In a nutshell, higher labor costs simply improve the payback profile of capital investments in technology thus accelerating job losses.
We recently shared the following example regarding California’s minimum wage hike from $10 per hour to $15. At $10 per hour and a 10-year payback, employers may be reluctant to invest in new technology. But, at $15 per hour and a 6-years payback, that investment become a no-brainer.
Unfortunately, while these concepts are somewhat simplistic for most us, they have confounded left-leaning economists and politicians pretty much since the beginning of time.
And while no amount of empirical evidence will change their minds, here is yet another study, this time from Grace Lordan of the London School of Economics and David Neumark of UC Irvine, offering up evidence that raising minimum wages only serves to increase unemployment and disproportionately crushes female and minority low-income workers.
Entitled “People Versus Machines: The Impact of Minimum Wages on Automatable Jobs,” the study found that each $1 increase in the minimum wage decreased the “share of lowskilled automatable jobs by 0.43 percentage point.” Here’s a summary of Lordan’s findings:
Overall, we find that increasing the minimum wage decreases significantly the share of automatable employment held by low-skilled workers. Our estimates suggest that an increase of the minimum wage by $1 (based on 2015 dollars) decreases the share of lowskilled automatable jobs by 0.43 percentage point (an elasticity of ?0.11). However, these average effects mask significant heterogeneity by industry and by demographic group. In particular, there are large effects on the shares of automatable employment in manufacturing, where we estimate that a $1 increase in the minimum wage decreases the share of automatable employment among low-skilled workers by 0.99 percentage point (elasticity of ?0.17). Within manufacturing, the share of older workers in automatable employment declines most sharply, and the share of workers in automatable employment also declines sharply for women and blacks.
Meanwhile, the results are even worse for workers over 40, females and minorities…
For example, a higher minimum wage significantly reduces the shares of both younger (? 25) and older (> 40) workers in jobs that are automatable, by a larger magnitude compared to those aged 26-39. For the younger and older groups, the estimates imply that a $1 increase in the minimum wage reduces the shares in automatable work by 0.94 and 0.72 percentage points respectively (the corresponding elasticities are ?0.20 and ?0.17. Looking by both age and industry, for older workers (? 40 years old) the negative effect mainly arises in the manufacturing and public administration sectors (a decrease of 1.68 and 3.50 percentage points for a $1 minimum wage increase respectively), while for younger workers (< 25 years old) the effects are large in many sectors but the estimate is close to zero for manufacturing. The middle age group, also, exhibits a decline in the share of workers in automatable jobs in manufacturing when the minimum wage increases – a 1.21 percentage point decline for a $1 increase. Thus, older workers appear more vulnerable to substitution away from automatable jobs when the minimum wage increases.
On average, females are affected more adversely than males: in the aggregate estimates in column (1), the negative estimate is significant only for females, and is almost ten times larger, indicating that, for females, a minimum wage increase of $1 causes a decrease of 1.01 percentage points in the share of automatable jobs (the elasticity is ?0.14). Across industries, these negative effects for females are concentrated in manufacturing, services, and public administration; for example, a $1 minimum wage increase reduces the share of automatable jobs in public administration by 3.67 percentage points – an elasticity of ?0.41). For males, only the estimate for manufacturing is statistically significant; the estimated effect implies that a $1 increase in the minimum wage causes a decrease of 0.62 percentage point (an elasticity of ?0.13).
Table 3 also points to similar overall effects by race, with a $1 increase in the minimum wage reducing the share in automatable jobs by 0.57 percentage point for whites and 0.72 percentage point for blacks. However, the effects are heterogeneous across industries. There are large estimated effects in manufacturing (1.19 percentage points) and public administration (1.53 percentage points) for whites, although only the first estimate is statistically significant. For blacks, there are large and statistically significant decreases in automatable shares in manufacturing and transport (declines of about 4.5 percentage point in both).
But, as usual, we’re sure this extra data will have no impact on Bernie’s “Fight for $15.” Amazing how some politicians will embrace math and science when arguing climate change but completely reject it when discussing minimum wage…wonder why?