The research literature on whether minimum wage increases kill jobs is decidedly mixed. Some economists have found that hikes lead to small job losses among teens and in industries like fast food. Others have found that losses are nonexistent, or at least negligible. In the end, I tend to argue that even if you assume reasonable job losses, middle-class and poor families come out ahead in the bargain. Though some workers end up unemployed, enough get raises to make the tradeoff worthwhile.
But that assumes we don’t lift the pay floor too high, too fast. Minimum wage studies have typically looked at small increases, somewhere around 50 cents or a dollar. Seattle’s proposal would be far larger. It would also have virtually no U.S. precedent.
So, there’s no good evidence to show that increasing the minimum wage to $15 would kill jobs, but there’s no proof that it wouldn’t. So we better not try. Or something.
Because if there’s one thing that capitalism discourages, it’s taking risks.