Can 600 Economists Be Wrong About the Minimum Wage?
By Bryan Caplan
Gary Becker has some interesting thoughts about the economics profession’s beliefs about the minimum wage:
A recent petition by over 600 economists, including 5 Nobel Laureates in Economics, advocated a phased-in rise in the federal minimum wage to a much higher $7.25 per hour from the present $5.15 per hour. This petition received much attention, and the number of economists signing is impressive (and depressing). Still, the American Economic Association has over 20,000 members, and I suspect that a clear majority of these members would have refused to sign that petition if they had been asked. They believe, as I do, that the negative effects of a higher minimum wage would outweigh any positive effects. That is one reason I would surmise why only a fraction of the 35 living economists who received the Nobel Prize signed on to the petition–I believe all were asked to sign.
I’d say “near-majority” rather than “clear majority,” even if there were no option to abstain. But that’s still pretty amazing, since probably 98% of economists favored the minimum wage when they were teen-agers. (As far as I know, no one has ever polled the public about whether the minimum wage should be abolished. But since 80% or so favor raising it, it’s hard to believe that more than 1-2% wants to get rid of it entirely).