Obama is proposing a hike to the minimum wage rate, so that employers are forced to pay the youngest and/or least skilled workers more money than they are worth. Will this lower unemployment?
When considering what economic policies to adopt, it is not enough to do what feels good. Liberals and conservatives agree that it is good to help the poor. Liberals think that higher minimum wage rates help the poor, and conservatives think that lower minimum wage rates help the poor. This is not a topic that is up for debate, though, because economists across the left-right spectrum agree on this one.
Take a look at this post from Harvard University economist Greg Mankiw.
My favorite textbook covers business cycle theory toward the end of the book (the last four chapters) precisely because that theory is controversial. I believe it is better to introduce students to economics with topics about which there is more of a professional consensus. In chapter two of the book, I include a table of propositions to which most economists subscribe, based on various polls of the profession. Here is the list, together with the percentage of economists who agree:
- A ceiling on rents reduces the quantity and quality of housing available. (93%)
- Tariffs and import quotas usually reduce general economic welfare. (93%)
- Flexible and floating exchange rates offer an effective international monetary arrangement. (90%)
- Fiscal policy (e.g., tax cut and/or government expenditure increase) has a significant stimulative impact on a less than fully employed economy. (90%)
- The United States should not restrict employers from outsourcing work to foreign countries. (90%)
- The United States should eliminate agricultural subsidies. (85%)
- Local and state governments should eliminate subsidies to professional sports franchises. (85%)
- If the federal budget is to be balanced, it should be done over the business cycle rather than yearly. (85%)
- The gap between Social Security funds and expenditures will become unsustainably large within the next fifty years if current policies remain unchanged. (85%)
- Cash payments increase the welfare of recipients to a greater degree than do transfers-in-kind of equal cash value. (84%)
- A large federal budget deficit has an adverse effect on the economy. (83%)
- A minimum wage increases unemployment among young and unskilled workers. (79%)
- The government should restructure the welfare system along the lines of a “negative income tax.” (79%)
- Effluent taxes and marketable pollution permits represent a better approach to pollution control than imposition of pollution ceilings. (78%)
And that’s not all. There have actually been studies done on this, and they echo the consensus.
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