Research & Commentary: Minimum Wage Reform in Missouri

Published September 14, 2015

During the 2015 legislative session, the Missouri House and Senate approved a bill that would have prevented cities from passing ordinances that would increase the minimum wage to a level greater than the state’s. Gov. Jay Nixon (D) vetoed the bill. Several cities have considered minimum wage hikes since 2014, and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay notably voiced his support for the proposal that would raise his cities’ minimum wage to $11 per hour by 2020.

Minimum wage laws attempt to create a minimum standard of living to protect employees’ health and well-being by mandating a base level of pay from employers to certain covered employees. Policymakers must consider the serious consequences a minimum wage increase can have on employment rates and economic growth.

A 2007 study from economists at the University of California-Irvine and the Federal Reserve Board examined the body of work on the subject and found 85 percent of the studies they considered credible demonstrate minimum wage laws cause job losses for less-skilled employees.

Supporters of minimum wage increases often argue employers paying their employees less than $15 an place an additional burden on government services but they assume the minimum wage earner is the primary breadwinner for a family, which is rarely the case. Economist Walter Williams wrote, “Workers earning the minimum wage or less tend to be young, single workers between the ages of 16 and 25. Only about 2 percent of workers over 25 years of age earn minimum wages.”

Proponents of these laws also argue minimum wage laws protect workers from exploitation by employers and reduce poverty. Opponents cite evidence increasing minimum wage laws is not an effective way to address poverty and often has the opposite effect by creating barriers to entry for workers with less skill and education. In a 2010 study, economists at Cornell University and American University found no reduction in poverty in the 28 states which raised their minimum wage laws between 2003 and 2007.

Minimum wage laws require businesses to pay their workers higher wages, forcing businesses to make adjustments elsewhere to offset the increased costs in order to maintain profitability. These cuts lead to reduced hiring rates, fewer work hours for employees, diminished employee benefits, and higher prices for consumers. Many of Missouri’s largest cities are located near neighboring states, which means the higher mandated wages Missouri businesses would have to face would create stiff competition from bordering towns and cities in Arkansas, Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska, where minimum wage laws may create a stronger business climate.

Patrick Tuohey of the Show-Me Institute argues Missouri mayors should focus on improving their spending and efficiency before raising the minimum wage. “While it’s nice that the mayors take time away from doggedly pursuing such ‘touristy frou frou’ as streetcars, convention hotels, and airport terminals to consider the needs of workers, it is not enough. The need for sound economic policies in Kansas City and St. Louis requires a more serious approach,” wrote Tuohey in an article on the hikes. “If mayors want to be advocates for the poor, they should focus on running their cities effectively and efficiently, rather than passing the buck in the form of wage controls. After all, increasing the minimum wage will likely hurt the very people it is intended to help.” 

Increasing the legal minimum wage is not an effective method of reducing poverty, and it harms workers by creating barriers to entry for less-skilled and less-educated people. Increasing a city’s minimum wage will cause more people to lose their jobs and make the city less competitive. 

The following articles examine minimum wage hikes and their effects on employment.


Should Missouri Raise Its Minimum Wage?
David Neumark writes in this piece for the Show-Me Institute about Missouri proposed minimum wage increases. Neumark argues if Missouri were to increase the minimum wage to the proposed level, it would be higher than all but one of the surrounding states. Neumark says these wage hikes are unlikely to help impoverished and lower-income families.

The Minimum Wage: How it Harms the Workers It’s Meant to Help
Dr. Michael Podgursky reviews the recently released Show-Me Institute video about the impact of the minimum wage in Saint Louis’s Dutchtown neighborhood. He then spoke on the side effects of the recent minimum wage increase in Saint Louis City and the impact it has on the workers it is intended to help.

The Dire Consequences of the Fight for 15: An Analysis of a $15 Minimum Wage in Wisconsin
The MacIver Institute examines the effects of an increase in the state’s minimum wage to $15 per hour, finding Wisconsin would stand to lose 91,521 jobs: “According to the data, a $15 minimum wage would inevitably lead to reductions in employment and would disproportionately harm younger workers and those without a college degree.”

The Minimum Wage and the Great Recession: Evidence of Effects on the Employment and Income Trajectories of Low-Skilled Workers
Jeffrey Clemens and Michael Wither estimate the minimum wage’s effects on low-skilled workers’ employment and income trajectories.

Do Workers a Disservice – Raise the Minimum Wage
In this Public Interest Institute Institute Brief, Robert N. Stewart argues minimum wage laws actually hurt the people they are designed to help: “Most of these people are teenagers working part-time or unskilled workers seeking to advance to higher paying positions. To many of these workers, raising the minimum wage will either result in unemployment or a lower-paying position. Raising the minimum wage, altruistic as it may feel, is actually doing these workers a disservice.”

Increasing Minimum Wage Hurts Teens
The MacIver Institute examines the effects of a minimum wage hike on teen employment: “MacIver notes since 2002, the minimum wage in Wisconsin has increased from $5.15/hr to the current $7.25/hr; meanwhile, the unemployment rate for Wisconsin teens has increased from 15.5 to 19.8, an increase of 27.7 percent over the decade.”

The Minimum Wage Delusion, and the Death of Common Sense
Writing for Forbes, James A. Dorn of the Cato Institute argues the commonly held belief the minimum wage helps the poor is a delusion: “The belief that increasing the minimum wage is socially beneficial is a delusion. It is short-sighted and ignores evident reality. Workers who retain their jobs are made better off, but only at the expense of unskilled, mostly young workers who either lose their jobs or can’t find a job at the legal minimum.”

Busting 5 Myths about the Minimum Wage
James Sherk of The Heritage Foundation debunks five myths about minimum wage hikes, often used by proponents of minimum wage laws: “A higher minimum wage would help some workers, but few of them are poor. The larger effect is hurting the ability of potential workers living in poverty to get their foot in the door of employment. A minimum wage hike might help politicians win plaudits from the press, but it wouldn’t reduce poverty rates.” 

Unintended Consequences of Raising the Minimum Wage
Antony Davies of the Mercatus Center examines arguments for and against minimum wage increases and presents new results comparing employment for workers with differing educational attainments. 

The Negative Effects of Minimum Wage Laws
Mark Wilson of the Cato Institute reviews the economic models used to understand minimum wage laws and examines available empirical evidence. Wilson describes how most of the academic evidence shows minimum wage laws have negative effects, and he discusses why some studies produced seemingly positive results. 

The Negative Effects of the Minimum Wage
David R. Henderson of the National Center for Policy Analysis examines several of the negative effects of the minimum wage, including its effects on unemployment, job benefits, and competition. 

Research & Commentary: Earned Income Tax Credit vs. Minimum Wage Laws
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and minimum wage laws have been two of the primary mechanisms the federal and state governments have used to help low-income families move out of poverty. A debate is currently ongoing in many state legislatures and Congress over which of these two policies is more effective and should be expanded. Recent studies have shown the EITC to be more effective. In this Research & Commentary, Matthew Glans examines the Earned Income Tax Credit and minimum wage laws from multiple perspectives. 

Minimum Wages and Employment: A Review of Evidence from the New Minimum Wage Research
David Neumark and William Wascher review the literature on the employment effects of minimum wages in the United States and other countries spurred by new minimum wage research beginning in the early 1990s. Their review indicates there are a wide range of estimates and, accordingly, a lack of consensus about the overall effects on low-wage employment of an increase in the minimum wage. Their review found very few studies provide convincing evidence of positive employment effects of minimum wages. 

Thinking about Local Living Wage Requirements
Timothy J. Bartik of the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research reviews what is currently known about the benefits and costs of different varieties of a “living wage”: a local government requirement now adopted by more than 50 local governments for wages above the federal minimum imposed on employers with some financial link to the local government. The paper concludes moderate living wage requirements applied to the local government’s own employees, as well as contractors’ and grantees’ employees who are funded by the local government, may do more good than harm. However, excessive living wages or living wages applied to non-city-funded workers are more likely to have negative side effects. 

Living Wage and Earned Income Tax Credit: A Comparative Analysis
Writing for the Employment Policies Institute, Mark Turner and Burt Barnow argue “living wage” laws are less efficient than localized Earned Income Tax Credit programs. 

Minimum Wages, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and Employment: Evidence from the Post-Welfare Reform Era
David Neumark and William Wascher examine the effects of minimum wages and the EITC in the post-welfare reform era. 

Raising the Minimum Wage Hurts Vulnerable Workers’ Job Prospects without Reducing Poverty
Although minimum wage laws are intended to reduce poverty, in reality, they encourage teenagers to drop out of school and reduce low-income workers’ future job prospects and earnings, observes James Sherk of The Heritage Foundation. 

Minimum Wage, Minimum Employment
Michael LaFaive of the Mackinac Center examines the research on minimum wages and concludes, “[T]heory and evidence very clearly point to minimum wage policies doing great economic harm, including minimizing employment opportunities.” 


Nothing in this Research & Commentary is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. For further information on this subject, visit Budget & Tax News at, The Heartland Institute’s website at, and PolicyBot, Heartland’s free online research database at

The Heartland Institute can send an expert to your state to testify or brief your caucus; host an event in your state; or send you further information on a topic. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if we can be of assistance! If you have any questions or comments, contact Logan Pike, Heartland’s state government relations manager, at [email protected] or 312/377-4000.