December 8, 2021

Overall earnings inequality rises in Seattle, despite higher minimum wage rates

Evidence suggests the Seattle minimum wage law slightly reduced earnings inequality among workers earning at or below the median hourly wage ($26.42), but the minimum wage law did not offset rising levels of earnings inequality across all workers.

Rising income inequality is of mounting concern in major metropolitan areas across the country. In an attempt to address rising inequality in Seattle, proponents of the Seattle Minimum Wage Ordinance argued that higher minimum wages would narrow the earnings gap between the top and bottom of the labor market. In a recent article, “Seattle’s Local Minimum Wage and Earnings Inequality,” University of Washington Evans School faculty Mark C. Long examines the extent to which the city’s minimum wage law might have affected earning inequality in the first few years following passage. Long finds that workers in the lowest paying jobs saw increases in their wages that reduced inequality among workers earning less than the Seattle’s median hourly wage ($26.42). He finds no evidence, however, that Seattle’s minimum wage lowered the overall level of earnings inequality across all workers in the city, which substantially widened during this period.

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