The Minimum Wage Study is a research effort dedicated to providing rigorous analysis of the impact of minimum wage ordinances in metropolitan regions and states.  We seek to provide insights that will be useful for policymakers and scholars. As more states and localities move forward with plans to raise the minimum wage, this research will infuse the debate with data on the effects on workers, households, employers, and the local economy.  We focus our analysis on the impacts of recently passed ordinances in Seattle and Chicago, as well as other areas.

July 2016 Report: Wages, Workers, Jobs & Establishments Impact

News Highlights

Previous Reports

Seattle’s Minimum Wage

In January 2014, Mayor Ed Murray formed an Income Inequality Advisory Committee to address the growing public call for a meaningful increase in the compensation for Seattle workers. This committee included representatives from Seattle City Council, local businesses, unions, and the Chamber of Commerce. After the committee reached an agreement on a recommendation, it was proposed as a plan by the Mayor, and then passed as legislation by the Seattle City Council. The minimum wage ordinance (Ordinance 124490), which when approved was the highest minimum wage in the country, provides for an increase in the minimum wage in the City of Seattle to $15 an hour, phased on over time. The rate at which it increases depends on the size of the company, and whether or not they pay toward their employee’s medical benefits plan.

In December 2014, after issuing a public request for proposals, the City of Seattle contracted with our team to conduct this evaluation.

Chicago’s Minimum Wage

In December 2014, the Chicago City Council passed Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s ordinance to raise the minimum wage for all Chicago workers to $13 per hour by 2019, a 45 percent increase over the currently mandated minimum wage. This ordinance will go into effect in steps over the next five years.

In 2015, we expanded our Study to include an evaluation of the City of Chicago ordinance as well as other areas. 

Our Research Questions

  • What is the impact of a higher minimum wage on workers, their families, employers, and the community?
  • Does a higher minimum wage affect employment and earnings among low-wage workers?
  • Does the higher minimum wage affect overall employment, business longevity, or the mix of firms that do business in Seattle?
  • How do businesses adapt to higher labor costs?
  • How does the higher minimum wage affect consumer prices?
  • Does a higher minimum wage improve quality of life measures, including health, nutrition, and family daily life?
  • Does the minimum wage affect public assistance program eligibility and benefits received?
  • Do nonprofit service organizations respond to higher wage rates by cutting back on services to vulnerable families?
  • How do low-income families and employers experience the implementation of the policy and how do they perceive its benefits and costs?

Project Components

The Minimum Wage Study involves several different project components, including employer surveys, an in-depth study of workers with children in Seattle, a study of regional pricing, and analysis of administrative and census data.

The research project will continue for at least five years, providing regular updates to the City of Seattle as increases are implemented. It is funded by a contract with the City of Seattle and by grants from multiple foundations, including the Laura and John Arnold Foundation and the Russell Sage Foundation.

Project Team

  • Jacob L. Vigdor: Principal Investigator, Evans School of Public Policy & Governance, UW
  • Jennifer Romich: Co-Principal Investigator, School of Social Work, UW
  • Mark C. Long: Co-Principal Investigator, Evans School of Public Policy & Governance, UW
  • Scott W. Allard: Co-Investigator, Evans School of Public Policy & Governance, UW
  • Scott Bailey: Co-Investigator, Washington Employment Security Department
  • Heather Hill: Co-Investigator, Evans School of Public Policy & Governance, UW
  • Jennifer Otten: Co-Investigator, School of Public Health, Department of Health Services, UW
  • Robert Plotnick: Co-Investigator, Evans School of Public Policy & Governance, UW
  • Anneliese Vance-Sherman: Co-Investigator, Washington Employment Security Department
  • Ekaterina Roshchina: Post-Doctoral Research Associate, Evans School of Public Policy & Governance, UW
  • Emma van Inwegen: Research Analyst, Evans School of Public Policy & Governance, UW
  • Anne Althauser: Research Project Coordinator, Evans School of Public Policy & Governance, UW
  • Talia Kahn-Kravis, Research Assistant, Evans School of Public Policy & Governance, UW
  • Hilary Wething, Research Assistant, Evans School of Public Policy & Governance, UW
  • James Busckiewicz, Research Assistant, School of Public Health, Department of Health Services, UW
  • Katherine Getts, Research Coordinator, School of Public Health, UW
  • Emmi Obara, Research Assistant, Evans School of Public Policy & Governance, UW

Helpful Links

Contact

General inquiries about the Seattle Minimum Wage Study may be addressed to mwage@uw.edu