Minimum Wage?

I heard this on the radio today:

A University of North Alabama survey of about 60 economists at four-year colleges in the state found more than half of them oppose an increase in minimum wage – an issue stirring political debate in Montgomery and Washington, D.C.

I have not been able to find the survey itself, so I don’t know what “more than half” means. The report goes on to say, though:

The survey found that 61.5 percent of the economists who responded strongly oppose an increase in the minimum wage. It also found that 57.1 percent strongly agreed that unemployment would increase if minimum wage increases.

On the other hand, over six hundred economists recently signed this statement:

We believe that a modest increase in the minimum wage would improve the well-being of low-wage workers and would not have the adverse effects that critics have claimed. In particular, we share the view the Council of Economic Advisors expressed in the 1999 Economic Report of the President that “the weight of the evidence suggests that modest increases in the minimum wage have had very little or no effect on employment.” While controversy about the precise employment effects of the minimum wage continues, research has shown that most of the beneficiaries are adults, most are female, and the vast majority are members of low-income working families.

As economists who are concerned about the problems facing low-wage workers, we believe the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2005’s proposed phased-in increase in the federal minimum wage to $7.25 falls well within the range of options where the benefits to the labor market, workers, and the overall economy would be positive.

Who to believe? I don’t know, but consider this:

I’ve known many kids to enter Econ 101 and come out merrily explaining why the minimum wage is a travesty, only to get through a few upper-division courses and turn on a dime. But since the vast majority of folks who take any economics will only take it once, the vastly simplified, misleadingly clean concepts of the introductory courses, offered with an assuredness the theories’ don’t deserve, stands. And thus a market worship, driven by the belief that theoretical efficiency has been proven to translate into actual equity, permeates.

It’s massively destructive, not least because it’s not true — not even in economics, where the elegant models of the lower levels give way to all manner of caveats and market failures up the ladder.

Whatever. I just don’t want to hear anyone say “you hate poor people” or “you are economically ignorant.”

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