Worker Heterogeneity and the Popularity of the Minimum Wage Institution
This paper analyzes long run outcomes resulting from adopting a binding minimum wage. The model distinguishes between workers of heterogeneous ability, and capitalists who do all the saving, and it entails – relative to the perfectly competitive benchmark - large output and employment losses (among the lowest-ability workers) from the imposition of moderately binding minimum wages. These effects arise not only because firms respond to the wage increase – relative to the static perfectly competitive benchmark – by moving upwards along a given labour demand curve, but also due to inward shifts of the labour demand curve as savers respond to decreases in the (net of taxes) rate of return on their savings by saving less, thus reducing the economy’s steady-state capital stock. Nevertheless, and despite the large, long-run, declines in aggregate output, consumption, and the capital stock implied by this model, MW legislation can be beneficial for large segments of employed workers, as long as they do not have to provide generous welfare support to the low-ability workers that the MW prevents them from finding employment.