Wednesday, September 25, 2013

With minimum wage come the robot overlords?

John Cochrane, an economist at the University of Chicago, explores what a higher minimum wage may mean (JohnCochrane):

The cost is just as easy to forecast. McDonalds cuts hours, and uses its most experienced and efficient workers more, and fewer people like my hapless server. And they don't get the oh-so-needed on-the-job training. The biggest impact of minimum wages is not so much on existing workers, but on new workers entering the labor force. (See a nice new NBER working paper by Jonathan Meer and Jeremy West.)

The effects fall heaviest on low-skill teenagers, especially minorities. Tom Sowell is eloquent on this point, for example in a recent New York Post OpEd. I was unaware until reading it that minimum wage laws were initially backed in part as conscious efforts to discriminate against minorities and preserve jobs for white people. Sometimes, I guess, policies do have their intended effects.

This much is pretty obvious. Looking around my McDonalds, though, I could see a deeper possibility -- an unexplored avenue for substitution away from low-skill labor.

No comments: