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Let the Great Minimum Wage Experiment Begin

Posted By Jonathan Noel, Friday, June 6, 2014
On June 2nd, or sometime thereabouts, the city council of Seattle, WA unanimously approved a $15 per hour minimum wage through the city, and the great debate about it's effects has been begun.

Some argue that it will kill small business, force layoffs, reduce the hours of employees who are retained and send retail prices sky high.  Others argue that by giving the lowliest workers a living wage, they will no longer be so reliant on entitlement or welfare programs and they won't need to consider going to the local food bank instead of the grocery store.  Up until now, this argument has been largely theoretical.  Sure, states have incrementally raised the minimum wage (Connecticut recently voted to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017), but honestly, those increases barely keep up with inflation.  This is different.  This is a real increase that may cause real change.

The problem is that we don't actually know whether that change will be positive or negative since all the analyses up to this point has, again, been largely theoretical.  But that is why it is so exciting.

There are an endless amount of public health studies that can be done, from the ecological to the individual, and if anyone is running a cohort study out of Seattle right now, they should be jumping for joy.  We can finally test whether a living wage really does lift people out of poverty or condemn them to more employment.  We can finally test whether a living wage will increase general health and better health care utilization.  We can finally test a whole host of other outcome measures.

Honestly, I can't say whether a $15 minimum wage will actually improve the lives of people working in Seattle or if it will fail catastrophically.  I hope that it works and I'd support pretty much any measure that lifts the floor to society.  All we can do now is wait and see.

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