by Kevin Coupe

The Seattle Times reports that increases in the minimum wage in the Seattle market, creating higher cost structures that some predicted would result in higher grocery prices, in fact did not have that effect over the last two years.

In fact, the story says the University of Washington has done another study saying that “more experienced Seattle workers had seen their paychecks rise and stayed in jobs longer, while less experienced workers had seen less positive change.”

The fact is, when people stay in their jobs longer, it actually can lead to higher productivity, as well as lower training costs.

That’s not to say that it was all positive: “Most child-care businesses did see their labor costs increase as the hikes were carried out, however, leading in some cases to staffing reductions, according to another UW study.”

This is important, the Times writes, because “research on Seattle’s experience has attracted widespread attention as more cities and states have moved to raise wages and as supporters and critics of such increases have sought to back up their positions.”

I’ve never thought that the same minimum wage rules ought to exist in every market … why would the same numbers automatically be relevant in Seattle as in Buford, Wyoming?

But I also think that it is equally mistaken to assume that higher wages are bad for the economy … higher wages can create job stability, higher productivity, not to mention more disposable income that is spent by consumers, thus driving the economy forward. (And yet, how many executives are judged in part by how low they can drive labor costs?)

I’m happy to see the Seattle study, if only because it adds to the notion that we have to think about these things in a nuanced way. That’s the Eye-Opener … that we can’t be guilty of epistemic closure when it comes to these things. Situations almost always are more complicated than they initially appear.