What Fresh Hell Is This?

January 9, 2014

Got A Few Questions For My Friends At The Trib

Let's look at the first two paragraphs from this column by Walter Williams of (the Scaife supported) George Mason University:
There's little debate among academic economists about the effect of minimum wages. University of California, Irvine economist David Neumark has examined more than 100 major academic studies on the minimum wage. He reports that 85 percent of the studies “find a negative employment effect on low-skilled workers.”

A 1976 American Economic Association survey found that 90 percent of its members agreed that increasing the minimum wage raises unemployment among young and unskilled workers. A 1990 survey reported in the American Economic Review (1992) found that 80 percent of economists agreed with the statement that increases in the minimum wage cause unemployment among the youth and low-skilled.
Ok, so here's my first question.  It's kinda meta but bear with me.  Professor Williams says there's "little debate" among economists about raising the minimum wage and one of the reasons he uses is that in 1990 (which is, you know, 24 years ago) "80 percent of economists agreed" that raising it raises unemployment.  So that settles it, I guess.

So when 80 percent of experts (in this case economists) agreed on something 24 years ago that means there's little debate now but when 97 percent of other experts (let's say, climate scientists) agree on something else now, the science is still "unsettled"?

So which is it, my friends?  Which criteria are you supporting to validate a statement.

But let's look at that 80 percent - has the consensus changed in 24 years?

Looks like it has.  From The Economix Blog of the NY Times:
Those opposed to government intervention once dominated this battlefield. In 1990, for instance, a survey of members of the American Economic Association showed that 60 percent agreed that minimum wages increase unemployment among young and unskilled workers.

In 1994, however, a now-famous case study by the economists David Card and Alan Krueger compared employment trends in fast-food establishments in New Jersey affected by an increase in the state minimum wage in 1992 with trends in nearby counties of Pennsylvania, where no legislative change had taken place.

Professors Card and Krueger reported the surprising result that employment trends in the two areas did not significantly differ. In subsequent research, including a book, “Myth and Measurement,” they provided additional support for their assertion that minimum wage laws have benefited low-wage workers.

Rallying under this banner, many economists pushed back against the conventional wisdom with some success. By 2000, only 46 percent of members of the American Economic Association agreed that minimum wages increase unemployment among young and unskilled workers. Another study published in 2006 showed that slightly less than half of all economists surveyed thought the minimum wage should be eliminated, while more than a third favored increasing it.
All more recent than the 24 year-old survey sited by Professor Williams.  So why is he using such an old survey to support his claim when such newer data point elsewhere?

No wait...I think I answered my own question.

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