Disregarding a Prominent Liberal Economist’s Advice

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orange county registerSEIU is advocating for a $15-an-hour statewide minimum wage in California, which is significantly higher than a prominent liberal economist thinks is prudent for less-affluent areas in the state.

Don’t take my word for it. Ask Dr. Arin Dube of the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, one of the country’s foremost academic proponents of a higher minimum wage. His research has been cited by the White House in support of President Obama’s call to raise the federal minimum wage, and it’s been used by unions and wage advocates across the country in support of their goals. In a paper last year for the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution, he suggested that states and cities should set their minimum wage to half of the hourly full-time median wage to maximize the benefit and minimize the harm.

Statewide in California, this equates to just over $10 an hour – which happens to be the wage level that the state is already adopting next January. But in some of the state’s poorer metro areas, even $10 an hour looks radical. In lower-income cities like Bakersfield, Fresno, Chico and Merced, a minimum wage of half the median wage would suggest a wage floor much closer to the current federal minimum level of $7.25, rather than the $15 figure supported by the SEIU. And in impoverished areas like El Centro – where even the median wage is below $15 an hour – a $15 ballot measure wouldn’t just be a job-killer, but an economy-destroyer.