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Most Economists Do Not Support an Increase in the Minimum Wage

May 17, 1987

A large majority of the country's economists would disagree with Harry Bernstein's May 6 column, "Poor Likely to Lose Minimum Pay Debate." Unlike Bernstein, most economists believe that increasing the minimum wage actually would hurt the poor.

For example, one of the most liberal economics texts in the country, "Economics," by William Baumol and Alan Blinder, states:

"There is a law on the books, which, though apparently designed to protect low-skilled workers, actually is an impediment to any attempt to improve job opportunities . . . . What is the law? None other than the minimum wage law."

More conservative textbooks are even more outspoken on the issue, especially for the harmful impact of the minimum wage law on the availability of jobs for minorities and teen-agers. When Bernstein says that "almost all independent studies" conclude that these claims are "greatly exaggerated," he is obviously discounting most economists as not being "independent," no?

A. H. STUDENMUND,

Professor of economics and finance

Occidental College

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