Does a Seattle Study Prove That Higher Minimum Wages Kill Jobs? Not So Fast

In a New York Times article, economics professor says the recent study didn't account for context, and increases in wages around country offer another chance to look at more data.

A recent study on the impact of raising the Seattle minimum wage found that the increase from $11 to $13 for some big employers resulted in significant job losses.

The study, conducted by the University of Washington, has been displayed by  conservatives as a cautionary tale—especially after the Seattle City Council, which commissioned the study, pulled its funding after seeing some results.

But is the Emerald City a harbinger for Portland of progressive policies killing jobs? A new analysis in The New York Times says probably not.

The study compared the city with surrounding areas not experiencing the same "tech boom and rapidly rising wages," writes Arindrajit Dube, an associate economic professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

And data analyzing minimum wage increases going back to 1979 have reached different conclusions about the impact, he notes.

"An increase in the minimum wage raises bottom wages by 3 percent (as in Seattle), it is unlikely to reduce employment by more than 1.5 percent — let alone the 9 percent found in the Washington study," Dube writes.

The Seattle researchers defend their analysis by saying: "We see very distinct job losses occurring exactly at the beginning of 2016" —when the increase occurred.

The jury is out, Dube concedes, but more data will be coming in from New York and California—and Oregon, where the Portland-area minimum wage just jumped $1.50 to $11.25 an hour.

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