In yesterday's Washington Post, Charles Lane reports on the move, that's almost a done deal, to raise California's minimum wage in stages to a whopping $15 an hour by 2022. Lane, or his editors, wisely titled the article, "The risks of California's minimum-wage increase."
By 2022, when fully phased in (small firms with fewer than 25 workers would have until 2023 to comply), the California minimum wage would represent 69 percent of the median hourly wage in the state, assuming 2.2 percent annual growth from the current median of roughly $19 per hour.
That 69 percent ratio would be all but unprecedented, in U.S. terms and internationally. The current California minimum wage represents about half the state's median hourly wage, just as the federal minimum wage averaged 48 percent of the national median between 1960 and 1979, according to a 2014 Brookings Institution paper by economist Arindrajit Dube. (It is currently 38 percent of the national median.)
Other industrial democracies with statutory minimum wages typically set theirs at half the national median wage, too.
Even Dube recommends a minimum wage equal to half the median wage. One that's 69 percent of the minimum wage is 38% higher than the level Dube recommends.
So Dube would oppose such an increase, right?
Wrong. Assuming that Lane reported Dube's response accurately, he favors the increase. Why? Lane writes:
He [Dube] told me by email that California's experiment is worth running and monitoring.
But these are humans being experimented on. Worth monitoring? Absolutely. Worth running? No damn way.
Economist Jonathan Meer, whose work Lane also cites, writes on Facebook (I am quoting with permission):
Playing with the March CPS [Current Population Survey], I find that a whopping 11% of young high school dropouts in California have a full time job. 85% of all high school dropouts in California are paid $15 an hour or less.
Among young (under 30) high school dropouts, that number is 96%.
Among *all* black and Hispanic respondents under 30 (irrespective of education), 90% are paid $15/hr or less.
This will not be good. (For more on the minimum wage, see "3 Reasons the $15 Minimum Wage Is a Bad Way to Help the Poor.")