When it comes to a minimum wage increase, pro-business (anti-family) conservatives like to trot out phrases like "simple supply and demand." "The price of labor goes up," they say, "and a business has to buy less of it, and the wage increase ends up actually hurting the poor." It sounds reasonable, but it isn't true.
Below I'll lay out four facts that will come in handy as you talk about the minimum wage increase proposals that are now before the NC General Assembly. Not all conservatives are allergic to facts, and it's possible that you can inject a tone of common sense into the discussion.
A potential side effect of increasing the minimum wage is a reduction in employment: with low-wage labor more expensive, some firms may hire fewer workers. Many studies have examined this issue, and the weight of the evidence suggests that modest increases in the minimum wage have had very little or no effect on employment. In fact, a recent study of the 1996 and 1997 increases, using several different methods, found that the employment effects were statistically insignificant.
From the entire period from January 1998 to January 2004, aggregate employment in the minimum wage states (plus D.C.) increased by 6.15 percent. This is 50 percent greater than the combined job growth of 4.11% for the other 39 states.>
A substantial portion (38%) of low-wage workers in March 2003 lived in families with incomes below 200% of the poverty line in 2002—an income range (less than $29,000 for a family of three in 2002) in which people are often unable to afford basic necessities.
For those above 200% of the poverty line, the earnings of low-wage workers are essential to their families' incomes and therefore their standard of living. In fact, 1.4 million families with incomes hovering above 200% of poverty would drop below that line if it weren't for the earnings of those families' low-wage workers. For such families, though not impoverished now, the minimum wage is important for keeping them in the middle class.