On Tuesday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published a letter from scholars at the Show-Me Institute arguing that raising the minimum wage to $10 would hurt Missouri. They write that by unilaterally raising the minimum wage, Missouri would lose jobs to other states.
Except for Illinois, where the minimum wage is $8.25 an hour, the states surrounding Missouri have a minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Many current and future businesses in Missouri, especially those near the state’s borders, would have a large incentive to relocate to surrounding states if Missouri raises its minimum wage all the way up to $10 an hour.
One reader who responded to the letter on the Post-Dispatch website asked what the effect on jobs was when Missouri increased its minimum wage in January from $7.35 to $7.50 an hour. First, it is too early to start making judgments about the effect of the recent minimum wage hike because it is only early March. Second, even if there isn’t much of an impact with this minimum wage hike, we must consider the degree of the increase. Going from $7.35 to $7.50 an hour represents a 2 percent increase in the minimum wage. A business might be able to absorb that increased cost and not feel compelled to move. However, the proposal in question would raise the minimum wage by 33 percent.
There are only so many additional costs a business can absorb before going out of business. Do we really want to risk these businesses leaving the state and taking the jobs they provide with them for something that even proponents say is a “blunt instrument” for helping poor people?
We all want to help the poor and truly disadvantaged, but there are better ways to do it. One thing to consider would be to follow the lead of 20 other states and establish a state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to supplement the federal one. Both David Neumark, in his Show-Me Institute policy study examining the effects of the minimum wage, and the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of federal minimum wage proposals acknowledge the EITC as a more cost-efficient way to help the working poor.