NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Do Minimum Wage Increases Reduce Crime?

Zachary S. Fone, Joseph J. Sabia, Resul Cesur

NBER Working Paper No. 25647
Issued in March 2019
NBER Program(s):, Labor Studies Program

An April 2016 Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) report advocated raising the minimum wage to deter crime. This recommendation rests on the assumption that minimum wage hikes increase the returns to legitimate labor market work while generating minimal adverse employment effects. This study comprehensively assesses the impact of minimum wages on crime using data from the 1998-2016 Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), and National Longitudinal Study of Youth (NLSY). Our results provide no evidence that minimum wage increases reduce crime. Instead, we find that raising the minimum wage increases property crime arrests among those ages 16-to-24, with an estimated elasticity of 0.2. This result is strongest in counties with over 100,000 residents and persists when we use longitudinal data to isolate workers for whom minimum wages bind. Our estimates suggest that a $15 Federal minimum wage could generate criminal externality costs of nearly $2.4 billion.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w25647

 
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