A commonly cited cause of relatively high African-American unemployment rates is the minimum wage. This argument is often made by libertarians. To detractors: it’s not just white, middle-class males who argue this. Walter Williams is well known for making the case — see his book, Race and Economics. Thomas Sowell, as well. The relationship is intuitive, if you assume that African-Americans, on average, are less productive than whites (and other ethnicities/races with lower unemployment rates) and perfect competition is the best model to apply to low-skill labor markets. My prior is that binding minimum wages do reduce unemployment, and so I’ve too repeated the argument, most recently today.
Knowing that intuition is deceiving, I want to develop a model to test — nothing too fancy, but not necessarily primitive, either. I don’t have that model yet. I’m looking at what data is available, what data is the best to use, and how I should manipulate the data, based on the model (e.g. should I compare rates of change or levels? what should be the functional form?).
In the meantime, here is the quick and dirty result, from the data I do have. All data is for California, including the African-American unemployment rate (BLS) and the inflation (CPI, less food and energy) adjusted minimum wage. The two compared,
The black trendline includes all data points (the blue diamonds); the red trendline excludes the highest blue diamond (-0.01942, 0.1963). The R2 are .0365 and .0311, respectively. Very low. Indeed, percent change in the minimum wage is not statistically significant. Also not statistically significant is the effect on the inflation adjusted minimum wage on the unemployment rate, and neither is the effect of ln(adjusted minimum wage) on ln(unemployment rate) — for those who may not know what the difference is, this last one measures elasticity; i.e. a one percent change in the real minimum wage causes a percent change in unemployment equal to the coefficient estimated for the former.
A “quick look” suggests that maybe the relationship between the minimum wage and African-American unemployment isn’t so obvious (or intuitive), after all.