Home News The Weird Twist in Seattle’s $15 Minimum Wage Experiment

The Weird Twist in Seattle’s $15 Minimum Wage Experiment

A 2001 Seattle newspaper headline saying "shaken, but OK"

A 2001 Seattle newspaper headline saying "shaken, but OK" A 2001 Seattle newspaper headline describing an earthquake is oddly and uniquely suited to describe the effects of the city’s minimum wage increase. | Dan Levine/AFP/Getty Images

Seattle made waves a couple of years ago by forging ahead with an ambitious new policy: the $15 minimum wage. Now, Seattle’s no stranger to pushing the envelope when it comes to progressive policies. Washington was one of the first two states to legalize marijuana, for example. Seattle is also home to Gravity Payments, which caused a stir when its CEO decided to implement its own minimum wage of $70,000.

But what about an entire city lifting the wage floor to $15 — roughly twice that of the federal minimum wage? It wasn’t just ambitious; it was also risky. While many people have argued the minimum wage is too low (federally), a jump to $15 per hour was relatively unheard of until a few years ago.

Since Seattle implemented the change, the wage has been slowly increasing year over year until it hit the $15 mark in January 2017. Policymakers and economists have been watching patiently, waiting to see what happens. After all, if the $15 wage floor is proven to be too much for businesses in an economic hot spot, such as Seattle, it surely wouldn’t work in Topeka or Youngstown.

We’ve had some studies with snippets of data leading up to this point, but now we have even more concrete findings to work with. They come in the form a study from the University of Washington (in Seattle) that shows us what happens when the wage floor takes a considerable jump. Unfortunately, it’s not as clear cut as it seems.

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