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Minimum Wages, Employment, and College Enrollment

Lance Wescher, Travis Hutchinson and Anna Rannou

The American Economist, 2019, vol. 64, issue 1, 3-18

Abstract: Most studies of the effects of minimum wage laws look exclusively at the labor market. This article investigates the less-researched topic of the effects of a minimum wage increase on enrollment in undergraduate higher education institutions in the United States. With a higher opportunity cost of pursuing an education given a higher minimum wage, potential students may opt to work instead of attend college. Conversely, if an increase in the minimum wage raises the unemployment rate for young workers, more people may enroll in college, as they are unable to find employment. Using restricted geocode variables and panel data from National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY97) over a period of time in which every state saw an increase in its effective minimum wage, we find that higher minimum wages do correspond to lower levels of college enrollment. We use a multinomial probit model to examine how tradeoffs are made between employment and college enrollment. Finally, we examine the transition path between college enrollment and employment. JEL Classification : I23, J24, and E24.

Keywords: minimum wage; human capital; college enrollment (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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DOI: 10.1177/0569434518787485

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